Puzzle Quest Galactrix isn’t nearly as good as its predecessor and it’ll mostly be remembered by its inconsistent difficulty and unappealing story.
Puzzle Quest was one of the most innovative and ingenious puzzle games of the last few years, as its gameplay mixed two of the most unlikely genres in a really convenient and enjoyable way. Like the original, Galactrix combines a Bejeweled-style gameplay with some RPG elements, but in this cuasi-sequel the setting is very different as the medieval universe has been replaced for the galactic one. This new entry in the series adds many changes to the basic formula and the result is more than interesting, but unfortunately some of the newer additions make the game really challenging and unexciting.
The main story is told through some really beautiful hand-drawn sequences and a narrator tells that main plot in a very engaging way. Your main character, which you have to create at the beginning of the game, has just graduated from a prestigious academy and now belongs to a galactic crew. There, you’ll get a modest ship which will allow you to go to various places; you’ll also be in contact with partners who have different abilities and so on. To get missions you need to direct your ship to some places of interest which are marked by different icons in an immense map. These missions usually involve selecting an asteroid or planet and then fight an enemy by matching multiple stones. For many reasons, the traditional gameplay has been completely redesigned and even though it can be really complex and engaging at first, ultimately it represents the worst part of Galactrix.
In fact, the gist of the game is pretty much the same as you still need to align a minimum of three stones of the same color to either collect mana or to attack the enemy. The board and jewels were also modified and instead of having the possibility of moving stones vertically or horizontally you can move them in six different positions. As a consequence, the gameplay has changed so much that in regular “fights” you’ll never run out of jewels to match, as every time the aligned stones disappear new ones fall according to the direction you’ve moved them. This simple premise seems really good at first, but it has many disadvantages, the main one being that most matches rely heavily on luck and the game can become really frustrating.
Moreover, there are multiple types of stones: red mines have replaced skulls and these represent the amount of damage you make, silver tiles represent intel, purple stones represent psi power, blue gems let you recharge your shield (an opponent first has to eliminate your shield before he can reduce your strength), green tiles represent the ship’s computer and yellow ones represent your engine gauge.
Furthermore, the RPG elements of the game have been toned down a little bit and every time you level up you’re given a couple of points to distribute among your various stats. The statistics that you modify give you added bonuses to starting energy or the number of gems of a certain color that you’ll have in your pool when you start battling. Instead of spells, here you’ll be able get new items which can be equipped to your ship and used in mid-battle given that you have the required mana.
The plot of the game is quite simple and your character is a really generic one, this is a problem because eventually, is really hard to care about the main story. As you progress, new characters join you on your main quest and each one has new abilities you can use to your advantage. Additionally, most of them have a back story that explains why they are there, but their inclusions feel extremely bland and flat.
Apart from the regular battles you’ll be able to perform diverse actions like hack leapgates, mine or even craft certain items. The fact that so many mixed actions were included into the game is really good, because they break down its pace a little bit and prevent combats from feeling extremely repetitive. Other changes (like the enemy AI or the chaotic battles) are completely uninspired and they hurt the gameplay, mainly because there’s this feeling of unpredictability that gives the opponents an unfair advantage. This is a serious complication because at times you’ll undeniably think that the AI can foresee what will happen next and it can accommodate its performance to beat you faster.
Puzzle Quest Galactrix looks really good. The game is full of little details and special effects, but the element that stands out the most is probably the sequences which were chosen to tell the story. The hand-drawn art is extremely good and detailed and makes the story a little more compelling. In addition, you move your ship freely from planet to planet in a really small space that doesn’t look as interesting as all the other sequences, but it serves its purpose well enough. Soundwise, the game is great. Some orchestral pieces accompany on your quest and when you’re fighting, these create a unique atmosphere proper of a science fiction setting. The best choice in this department is probably the narrator’s voice and even though his sequences are only a few, they are one of the best features in the whole game.
In the end, Puzzle Quest Galactrix isn’t nearly as good as its predecessor. While the original had so many elements that blended seamlessly this one tries to change the main core of the game in a really complicated and unnecessary way. As a result, and even though Galactrix still has some interesting qualities, this is an uninspired sequel which will mostly be remembered by its inconsistent difficulty and unappealing story.