DS

North America

Puzzle Quest: Galactrix

by Zachary Miller - March 5, 2009, 11:36 am PST
Total comments: 18

4

In space, no one can hear you clear a row of jewels.

In the future, when space travel has opened up unknown realms of the universe and alien civilizations sprawl out before humanity, conflicts between species will be solved with Bejeweled. This is the main tenet of the newest Puzzle Quest game which, if you haven’t figured it out already, takes place in the vast reaches of space. There’s a plot, I guess, and an irritating RPG structure, and an incredibly annoying map system, and Bejeweled.

You take on the role of a more-or-less freelance space jockey, running errands for various interplanetary species, repairing warp gates, mining planets for resources, and doing battle with space pirates. All of this is accomplished, miraculously, by shifting honeycomb-shaped jewels around on a board. The trick is that each task requires a different variation on the main game. Mining requires you to make as many matches and chains as possible before locking the board (no more matches can be made). When repairing a warp gate, you need to match colors in a specific sequence in an allotted time. Fighting enemy ships has you and the baddie taking turns chaining combos and blowing up bomb blocks to deal damage to the opposition. The Bejeweling itself is a lot of fun, but all of the fluff surrounding it detracts from the experience.

You’ll do a lot of reading, talking, and guiding your ship icon around a whole slew of identical maps, tapping on planets to proceed with tasks. You’ll equip items to your ship, or read about your shipmates, or sell mining resources for cash which you use to buy new items. You’ll fly from one planet to the next, one warp gate to the next, doing the exact same tasks for the entire game. Completing missions and defeating opponents nets you experience which you can use to level-up your pirate-fighting skills. Vs. battles have you managing several colored energy bars (which are replenished by matching like-colored jewels) corresponding to shield strength, HP, and various weapons levels. You use weapons to deal damage directly, replenish your shields, or drain enemy weapon levels. The Bejeweling itself takes a backseat to resource management, which is problematic. The difficulty of pirate battles ramps up quickly, but it’s not because the Bejeweling itself is any harder; the enemies just have more shield strength, higher HP, and items that damage you without relying on bomb blocks. Leveling up attempts to remedy this problem. When you level up, you are allowed to add attribute points to particular areas, which just means that when you clear a certain jewel color in Vs. battles, you’ll get so many more points for that resource color. For example, if you invest heavily in Shields, clearing three blue jewels (which would normally net you three shield points) gives you six points instead.

Something I don’t like about Bejeweled, as opposed to other puzzlers like Panel de Pon, is that you’re not free to “set up” chains. The only allowable moves are those which clear a row of jewels, so chains are more of a random occurrence. Still, getting a nice chain is always thrilling, even if you weren’t able to meticulously engineer its occurrence.

The touchscreen interface leaves something to be desired, too. I often had to press a desired area unusually hard to get blocks to swap spots, and there were some places where blocks would swap the wrong spots when I didn’t tap that spot in the first place, which in Vs. battles leads to a penalty. When navigating menus on the galactic map, tapping an option would sometimes close the menu and send my ship flying away at great speed instead, which is both puzzling and annoying. There were many times when it took several tries to make the menu option work.

The game offers two-player multi-card play, but it might be hard to find somebody with another copy of the game. Online battles would’ve been appreciated. The game would’ve been better as a stand-alone Bejeweled cart, with traditional game types like Endless, Time Attack, Vs., etc. As it stands, Galactrix adds way too much unnecessary clutter to the core puzzle game. I know that’s kind of the point, but it just comes off as being unnecessary.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
4 4 5 3 4 4
Graphics
4

The Bejeweled boards look a little fuzzy. Galactic maps are devoid of life. Character portraits, which appear during story sequences, are well-drawn, but they don’t animate or even change posture.

Sound
4

I think the keyword for Galactrix’s sound design is “minimalist.” Music is present during puzzle sequences, but it’s not going to get your blood pumping.

Control
5

Tapping things works great most of the time, until you experience some irritating lag between touching a jewel and seeing it move, or suddenly flying your ship away from the planet menu, or inadvertently switching the wrong jewels. These are key stumbles for a game that relies entirely on the stylus for control.

Gameplay
3

Bejeweled is fun. The rest…not so much. The RPG elements, in particular, really suck the life out of the game. Why am I worrying about shield strength? I just want to flip some darn jewels around!

Lastability
4

Whether or not you enjoy Puzzle Quest: Galactrix will depend entirely on your tolerance for navigating menus and reading text in order to get to the next puzzle. If your tolerance is low, this game is not for you.

Final
4

The control issues simply shouldn’t be there, and I wouldn’t have more fun with a straight-up collection of Bejeweled games. At least then it wouldn’t be trying to be something it’s not.

Summary

Pros
  • Bejeweled is also fun with a friend!
  • Bejeweled is fun
  • Nice character portraits
Cons
  • Bejeweled not as fun as Panel de Pon
  • No single-card or online multiplayer support
  • Plot, characters, planet-hopping is unnecessary and tiring
  • Stylus control leaves something to be desired
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

"I often had to press a desired area unusually hard..."

That makes no sense, as the DS touch screen is purely digital -- you're either pressing on a pixel, or you aren't.

"Bejeweled not as fun as Panel de Pon"

This is like reviewing a Crash Bandicoot game and saying that Sonic isn't as much fun as Mario.  WTF?

"and I wouldn’t have more fun with a straight-up collection of Bejeweled games."

Freudian slip?

Zach, it seems like you didn't play the first Puzzle Quest game, so I guess you can't say how the two compare.  But I really have to question your recommendation that this would be better as a straight Bejeweled port.  (For one thing, that already exists on DS.)  The huge difference between Puzzle Quest and Bejeweled is that you have an opponent playing on the same field.  So you aren't just looking for sets of three.  You have to make strategic decisions based on the equipment, stats, and current condition of both you and the enemy.  And when moving gems, you should try to avoid setting up a big move for the opponent.  These are very, very important aspects of playing Puzzle Quest, and none of them are present in Bejeweled.  If you're just playing it like Bejeweled, you will get stomped.  It's a different game.

I should be getting Galactrix today or tomorrow, so then I'll have my own thoughts on the sequel.  I'm prepared for some janky crap in the execution -- the last one was pretty much a mess on DS too, although not as bad as the atrocious Wii version.  But unless they seriously unbalanced the overall gameplay formula, it should be just as addictive.

You are only allowed to make ONE MOVE per turn (unless you miraculously find a 5-jewel-clear), and sometimes, you don't have that many options on the board because the ONLY move that's allowed is one that clear jewels. This is unlike Panel de Pon, where you can move any two blocks you damn well please. If you do try to switch two blocks that don't result in a clear, you are penalized 5 HP and immediately lose your turn.

So really, the game is tying your hands. It's a miracle when a chain appears, because you are entirely reliant on what jewels appear in the periphery to fill the void. I really can't tell you how much I hate that aspect of the game.

And during Vs. battles, you're managing like six different energy bars, THREE of which correspond to items you can use. Let's make this as goddamn complicated as possible. If you're going to wedge a puzzle game block into an RPG hole, the puzzling better be really strategic.

Here are some ideas for improvements:

1) Lighten the resource load. Don't make me worry about five different bars and two more experience tallies. Let me worry about shields, HP, and one resource bar.

2) Make turns timed. Let me execute as many moves as I can within a very set time limit, like ten seconds.

3) Make useful items appear earlier in the game. My opponent is able to whack five units off my HP BEFORE HE TAKES HIS TURN. W T GD F?

And the touchscreen thing is really wierd. Tapping an area sometimes doesn't do anything. It's like you have to hold the stylus on the jewel before it does anything sometimes.

In closing, I didn't like this game.[/i

PaleMike Gamin, Contributing EditorMarch 05, 2009

So is it not a product of pressing hard, but more a product of the game not recognizing it until it's been held there for a set amount of time? That sounds like they felt the need to make sure the player was doing what they were doing.

Puzzle Quest, like Bejeweled before it, isn't really based on making chains.  It's not Puzzle League, although that's obviously that you wanted it to be.  It's rare for there to only be one possible move on the board, but if there is, you should still have the option to use a special move instead.  And if Galactrix is anything like the original PQ, a lot of the special moves are designed to create new move possibilities.  In Challenge of the Warlords, I can spend some mana to turn certain jewels into different jewels, and that often creates a 4-of-a-kind or 5-of-a-kind.  When you learn to manipulate the board and look for opportunities to do so (not just the obvious available moves), you can give yourself multiple moves per turn and thus gain a limited opportunity to set up chains.

Aw hell, write your own damn review. ;-)

Johnny, you make this game sound so darn hardcore! I thought the PuzzleQuest games were based on casual game mechanics?

Puzzle Quest is extremely hardcore.  It's a strategy-RPG with puzzle-based battles... what do you expect?  That's part of the charm of the original one, as it turned the most casual game ever into an incredibly deep, complex, and rewarding hardcore title.  Galactrix doesn't pull the same trick because it's no longer based on Bejeweled (despite what Zach's review implies), but it may be even more complex than the first game.  That's not necessarily a good thing, mind you.

I want to see someone turn Peggle into a hardcore title.  I think it could be done.  (And I LOVE Peggle.)

Flames_of_chaosLukasz Balicki, Staff AlumnusMarch 08, 2009

Quote from: Jonnyboy117

Puzzle Quest is extremely hardcore.  It's a strategy-RPG with puzzle-based battles... what do you expect?  That's part of the charm of the original one, as it turned the most casual game ever into an incredibly deep, complex, and rewarding hardcore title.  Galactrix doesn't pull the same trick because it's no longer based on Bejeweled (despite what Zach's review implies), but it may be even more complex than the first game.  That's not necessarily a good thing, mind you.

I want to see someone turn Peggle into a hardcore title.  I think it could be done.  (And I LOVE Peggle.)

From what I saw of Galactrix it looks like a mixture of bejeweled and hexic.

It looks like Hexic but doesn't play like it at all.  Hexic is a good puzzle game, though.

The gem-matching part is still like Bejeweled, but the shape of the board, shape of the pieces, directions of potential matches, and direction of new gems entering the board are all quite different.  It's taking me a while to get used to the changes, but I am starting to understand the board and predict moves better.  I think it's good that the team tried something different with the battles.  Where things get overcomplicated is in how you make money (selling a dozens kinds of cargo, which is mined from asteroids) and how certain actions, like selling cargo, buying items, or even checking your inventory, are only available in certain map locations.

StratosMarch 08, 2009

Quote from: Jonnyboy117

I want to see someone turn Peggle into a hardcore title.  I think it could be done.  (And I LOVE Peggle.)

Peggle Quest?

Interesting review. I've been on the fence about the 'Puzzle Quest' type games in general and have been debating on which should be my first foray into this series. Obviously this one shouldn't be my first experience.
Should I just try out the original PQ or wait for Puzzle Kingdoms?

I wouldn't say that this is significantly more complicated than the original, but that may just  be because of how much of an Escape Velocity fan I am so I'm used to some stuff like the commodity exchange.

Stratos, I'd say that which one you should try depends on what setting you want; if you want fantasy play the original Puzzle Quest, if you want sci-fi play Galactrix.

StratosMarch 08, 2009

Quote from: insanolord

I wouldn't say that this is significantly more complicated than the original, but that may just  be because of how much of an Escape Velocity fan I am so I'm used to some stuff like the commodity exchange.

Stratos, I'd say that which one you should try depends on what setting you want; if you want fantasy play the original Puzzle Quest, if you want sci-fi play Galactrix.

Should I maybe wait for the Puzzle Kingdoms sequel since that is coming soon? I'm leaning towards the original since that's the one that started it all.

Yeah Stratos, you may want to wait for Puzzle Kingdoms in that case.  Of course, we'll have to see if that one turns out well, but I'm interested in it.

Galactrix is really good so far... I've played it for several hours in the past few days.  It's just as addictive as the first one, and it achieves the same feeling of ADD that makes it really hard to stop playing.

Justin NationJustin Nation, Staff AlumnusMarch 09, 2009

I was, well and still am, a bit taken aback by the review... mainly because I think it misses the point and comes out more as unfair for knocking it for all the wrong reasons. Bought it for my wife and she played it ravenously until she beat it last night and walked away liking the game but literally not being sure she'd even beat it. What I'm seeing around I would tend to agree with... it didn't seem to be tested worth $#!t on the DS since she only was able to build a powerful ship after she beat the game because she made a change. Saw something similar on the GameFAQs board. Just seems a mess.

I am enjoying the PC version currently and was a bit more pissed about the negativity based on my experience there. Then I saw the DS version. As inferior as the DS version of Puzzle Quest generally looked I think that Galactrix really looks like crap on a cracker for DS and some of it even seems unnecessary. OK, so real estate doesn't allow for some things on the puzzle board. I get that. But interfaces like moving between systems look horrible. WTF? Just I think the port of Puzzle Quest was handled much better.

No final verdict but I could see negativity for the game. The issue is mentioning Bejeweled in any way, shape, or form. Puzzle Quest and Galactrix are completely in their own sub-genre, much deeper and more involved than the simplicity of Bejeweled and its ilk. Just seems like it would have been more effective to take the game down on its obvious faults instead of getting caught on a somewhat irrelevant tangent.

Justin, having not played the original Puzzle Quest, Bejeweled was the only point of reference I had.

I'd almost like to see the PC version of this game now that you say that the DS game is crap by comparison.

Yeah, there are some blatant technical problems with the DS version.  Even the free Flash demo of Galactrix PC is smoother and looks better.  But I'm enjoying the game despite the occasional lag and frequent load times.

Flames_of_chaosLukasz Balicki, Staff AlumnusMarch 10, 2009

Well Jonny I played the original game and Zach passed along the review to me so let's see how a person who enjoyed the original puzzle quest on the DS and XBLA will like the DS sequel.

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Puzzle Quest: Galactrix Box Art

Genre Puzzle
Developer D3Publisher

Worldwide Releases

na: Puzzle Quest: Galactrix
Release Feb 24, 2009
PublisherD3Publisher
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