BUY IT FROM AMAZON: RIGHT HERE!
PLATFORM: Nintendo DS (reviewed), PC

ESRB RATING: E
DEVELOPER: Infinite Interactive

PUBLISHER: D3 Publisher
 
It’s 6:00 in the morning. I only realized this because I accidentally glanced at the clock, and my eyes widened in surprise. I’d planned on playing a little Puzzle Quest: Galactrix at midnight when I crawled into bed, but I was still up. And I have to get past this last battle, damn it. And afterwards, to finish the quest. Oh, and maybe I could buy some new equipment for my ship, but I’d have to go mine some asteroids first…

So I actually had to let the battery on my DS die to stop myself from playing, and I only wish that was a joke. Even now writing this up I’m considering going inside to get the charger to plug it in and play it for a few more hours… even though I have to get up in three. I probably still will. I’ve played the game well into the night for the last five days.

Puzzle Quest: Galactrix is every bit as addictive as the last one. And God help me, I love it.
 
THE PITCH

It’s the future and you’re a guy with a ship who goes around fighting alien races and trying to solve some big mystery and blah blah blah.

No one cares about the story in these games. They’re horribly written and about as standard as you can get. Replace the first game’s fantasy story with a scifi one and there you go. Just skip it… we’re all here to mash gems together, after all.


CHUDTIP- Just keep touching that screen!


THE PLAY

If Puzzle Quest: Rise of the Warlords was Bejeweled, this is Bejeweled Goes to Space. There’s a huge gameplay change that has to do with the new hexagonal pieces. The gameplay is very simple- you’re just trying to collect gems by putting three or more together in a line on the board. As you clear them more gems will fall in to take their place. Instead of the last game which had the gems cascading down with gravity it’s all about inertia this time, which works well if you consider the setting. When you swap gems the direction in which you move them matters- if you go from right to left the new gems will come piling in from the right side of the screen. If you move them up they’ll go up, down they’ll go down. This makes for a huge amount of strategy and give you a much greater feeling of control than the last game… there are just so many new ways to go at the board this time.

It’s like any great puzzle game in that it’s tricky to figure out at first, but as you start to get into it you’ll be able to see two and three moves in advance, setting up combos and taking your enemies out with ease… provided the gems fall your way, of course.

The big different with Puzzle Quest is that it’s a combative puzzle game- you’re constantly fighting enemies (by taking turns) in order to advance. Every spaceship has a certain amount of hit points and a shield that you have to destroy in order to take down. The gems are even more unique this time, and you really have to think about which ones you want to match. For example, making combos of 3 or more blue gems will replenish your shield and give you a little more defense against damage. 

Instead of the original Puzzle Quest‘s spells, this time you can equip your ship with various items in order to take down enemies more easily. Each uses a set amount of gems, which you collect and stockpile by clearing off the board.

The red gems are mostly for attack moves (lasers and such that do a set about of damage on your opponent), yellow and green are for more defensive maneuvers. Purple gems give you PSI (used to avoid ships on the map) and gray gems give you experience points to level up with. And of course there are the mines, which are the most important gems on the table since it’s with these that you do damage to your opponent. They have numbers on them that reflect how many points of damage they’ll do.


CHUDTIP- The gems with the numbers are mines. The trick is to make sure your opponent can’t put together three of them during his turn.


Ah, but it’s better to just try it out for yourself. Try the flash demo at playpuzzlequestgalactrix.com and you’ll see how it goes.

The other big thing with the Puzzle Quest series are the RPG elements. You take up quests and travel from solar system to solar system, helping out people and forming alliances and enemies as you go. You can buy new equipment for your ship, everything from weapons to a time warp that forcibly skips your opponent’s turn to a shield generator that will raise your stats a bit. You can even get new ships by either purchasing them with cash you get from completing quests, or by crafting them yourself. Various supplies can be found by mining asteroids or defeating important enemies. All of this while travelling around the universe trying to figure out some dumb story.


CHUDTIP- Red solar systems are hostile. Travel over them with caution- you might get sucked into a fight.


One of the more irritating parts of the first Puzzle Quest was the amount of random encounters you’d face. Trying to get anywhere on the board would inevitably have you facing some random monster, and while the encounters still happen here, they’re much less frequent. Instead, you’ll have Jump Gates to attend with. They’re the way you get from solar system to solar system, and you have to hack them in a game to open them up. The only problem is that they close after a while and that there are literally dozens of them, so you’ll soon get sick of hacking them when all you’re trying to do is get to a certain planet. Later on you can avoid both enemies and jump gates by obtaining certain items, but you’ll go through a lot to get there.

Still, it’s nice the way the puzzles keep changing up Besides the jump gates there other tasks you can take a crack at, such as trying to find rumors (backstory) on moon colonies, haggling with a shopkeeper for better prices, or mining a moon- all of which are single-player survival or timed games. It may be silly that you’re playing another game to haggle but it’s nice to have a few variations of the game to play with.

Writing all this I’m completely aware of how silly and simple the game may sound, but it’s incredibly deceptive. There just has never been a game as addicting. Simple enough to pick up but with tons of depth, it’s the perfect game for puzzle addicts looking for a little more substance.
 
THE PRESENTATION

The graphics are nothing special, but it’s a puzzle game, after all. That’s not the focus.

The music sounds like a mix of old-school Metroid with perhaps those old Star Trek adventure games for PC. In other words full of radar dings and bloops and other spacey sounds- although the main theme will be similar to anyone who’s played the original. It’s somewhat repetitive and can get annoying but you don’t need sound here either.


CHUDTIP- The PC version’s got more nifty effects and sound (including voice work), of course.


One big issue with the game is the amount of loading. This is the DS version, mind you, the PC doesn’t appear to share the same issue. But there’s a loading screen before every battle, entering into every solar system or even just clicking on different selections in the menu. While they’re not terrible they do get a bit irritating when you’re flying to a bunch of locations or just trying to get around the menu.
 
THE REPLAY


If you’ve played the original Puzzle Quest you know how bad it is once you start playing one of these games. There are over 150 battles you can participate in, and the sheer amount of customization means that you’re going to get hours and hours of life-sucking enjoyment out of this one.

Plus, there’s a multiplayer mode with which you can challenge a friend with your leveled-up ship, that I unfortunately couldn’t try because I had a review copy and no one else to play with. I can’t see the mode getting a ton of play and it’s a bit of a shame that there’s no wifi mode. The PC version has it, however, as will the eventual XBLA and PSN versions.



THE VERDICT

They did it. This game manages to be even better than the first.

As for which version you should pick, it’s up to you. The PC version is probably superior with its better visuals, sound and loading times (not to mention online multiplayer), but the DS has the benefit of portability as well as the speed of touch controls. The game will also be hitting the Xbox 360 and PS3 as a downloadable title in the near future, complete with trophies and achievements.

You can’t go wrong any way. If you’re a puzzle fiend you need to have this in your collection.

9.0 out of 10