Puzzle Quest Galactrix (XBox 360 XBLA)

by PaulEMoz

Oh, man. If I told you the hours I've lost to Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords... well, you probably wouldn't believe me. And I haven't even completed it. I don't know why, because I never got on with Bejewelled, but there's something about its "match three" gameplay crossed with RPG elements and cheesy dialogue and storyline that appeals to me. It's damn addictive!

And so it was with great excitement I learned about PQ Galactrix, many months ago now. But then details came out that made me wary... six-sided pieces instead of four, pieces moving in different directions to fill in the gaps left by a match, "hacking" subgames... it seemed as though in trying to keep it fresh, they were overcomplicating a simple but winning formula. And at 1600 points, a lot for an XBLA game, it seemed like the price might be too high to pay if that formula was ruined...

Having played for about three hours solid, I can safely say that the formula, to me, has been enhanced, not ruined. Phew!

Having hexagonal pieces and multi-directional movement of the pieces adds a massive new challenge to the game... you really have to think about what you're doing. Yeah, there are still a lot of random elements... of course you don't know which colours will fall onto the board, but then you never do in any of these games. If you can deal with that, the chances are you're going to have a great time here.

Variety comes with the form of subgames. Hacking Leapgates in order to get around the galaxy is a huge and very important part of the game. And you may have read elsewhere that it's a massive annoyance. I don't think it is. Unlike the original, where you had to complete certain colour-matching tasks to capture creatures, hacking is not overly difficult, at least this early in the game, meaning you're pretty much free to progress as you please. And of course, if you fail, you can retry the task (with a different board).

Another subquest comes from the mining of minerals. You can move to an asteroid and play a match game to mine quantities of different minerals, which can be used to repair or craft upgrades for your ship or can be sold at trading posts. If you hold onto them, they may be worth more at different posts. This adds an almost Elite-like aspect to the game... it's worth shopping around to see who pays the best price.

A slight downpoint comes from the characters available to you... you have the choice of two men or two women, and it doesn't matter who you pick. In the original Puzzle Quest, choosing your class meant different spells were available to you. It makes no difference here... everyone has the same abilities. That's a bit of a shame, but hardly a dealbreaker in the game. You do collect other characters to keep you company through the game, each with helpful skills.

Puzzle Quest Galactrix is a game of epic scope, considering it's a simple puzzle game at heart. It really will last you for ages once you get into it, and as with the original, it's suitable for a quick ten-minute blast or a marathon session. Be warned though... what's intended as a ten-minute blast can easily turn into three hours... I know this from experience. I love this!