Square Enix understands the role-playing game, and PopCap has mastered the gem-puzzle concept; as a cross-breed between the two companies, Gyromancer comes to the expected conclusion. Exclusive to Live Arcade and PC, Gyromancer steals the mechanic of Bejeweled Twist and dresses it up in a monster-summoning wizard’s robe. The result grabs your attention with fun gameplay and flashy visuals, but remains a little too simplistic to have the long term enjoyability of the similarly structured Puzzle Quest franchise.
Gyromancer looks great. Fantastic monster designs representing your summoned monster and your opponent grace each side of the game screen. Matching gems and completing attacks result in splashy explosions of color across the screen. Even the map screen between battles has a polished appearance.
The engaging gameplay that lays behind the attractive visuals makes it easy to while away the hours. The gem twisting mechanic is a fun variation on the formula, presuming you haven’t already encountered it in Bejeweled Twist. To its detriment, Gyromancer features fewer layers of strategy to juggle and fewer interesting ways to gather points. By sticking with little more than the central rotating gem mechanic, the opportunity for a deeper experience is lost. Most monsters you fight are defeated in the same way – match gems to build up power, block attacks, and fire off your own attacks when they show up on the board. The unique effects enabled through the use of different monsters rarely factor into your success or failure.
The joy of Gyromancer is in leveling up and gathering additional monsters to summon. Square Enix’s influence is keenly felt in this regard. The game gives you multiple reasons to revisit older maps – you can comb them for hidden items and creatures, or grind against monsters that remain behind in the stage. Unfortunately, the upgrade and leveling systems offer too little flexibility to feel like a true RPG. Since you’re always playing a set character (usually Rivel the Mage) and there’s no true skill branching over time, it’s hard to feel like you can customize your abilities in meaningful ways. It also would have helped if the generic story wasn’t filled with anachronistic dialogue.
Those quibbles aside, Gyromancer never ceases to be addictive and fun. Even with its simple premise, the battles remain exciting after hours of leveling and exploring. Though individual fights rarely tax your abilities, keeping your monsters alive throughout an entire map is ever more challenging as the game continues. Even with a lackluster story, the RPG-lite elements are enough to motivate you to see what lies ahead. Gyromancer is not as complex or demanding as many of the big name titles on retail shelves, but high production values and polished gameplay carry it a long way.