Puzzle Quest: Galactrix Review
The first Puzzle Quest was one of those ideas that worked so well it was hard to understand why it hadn't been done before. The game found success integrating match-three color puzzle gameplay with traditional role-playing components like character leveling, special abilities, and world exploration...as if RPG or puzzle games on their own didn't have enough addictive qualities. Infinite Interactive now launches out of the world of swords and sorcery to deliver a sequel in the sprawling reaches of space.
Galactrix, like its predecessors, requires little in the way of tutorials; match same-colored gems together and defeat your opponent. The variety emerges through the numerous situations in which players complete the familiar puzzle mechanic. Your space-faring character must mine asteroids, hack leap gates, haggle with alien vendors, craft impossible to pronounce sci-fi items, and, of course, battle enemy ships. All of these tasks feature variations on the formula, such as one that demands a certain number of matches with only limited gems. Only the hacking attempts left me cold; these are timed, and the random lay of the board means any given attempt may fail no matter how fast you match.
The shape and movement pattern of the board sets Galactrix apart. Like its gems, the hexagonal gameplay surface is more dynamic than the square layout from the last game. Specifically, new pieces fall into place in the same direction as you move your piece. Thus, it's not only which gems you trade, but in which direction you trade them that shapes the board layout after your turn. This clever mechanic takes time and patience to master.
The single-player campaign details a sci-fi galaxy of cookie-cutter alien cultures and familiar storylines. A dangerous experiment has escaped the confines of the space station and killed all the experimenters? Gasp! Even so, it's entertaining enough to keep players engrossed for the dozens of hours it could take to complete the whole affair. The multiplayer mode extends the gameplay by letting you show off your ship's abilities to a friend or play as the enemy ships from the story.
Galactrix succeeds in all the ways a sophomore entry should. It maintains the core approach of its successful forebear, but isn't afraid to integrate a bevy of new ideas along the way. Not every one of these new concepts pans out, but it hasn't lost the flavor that made so many devote themselves the first time around.