Puzzle Quest Galactrix Review

I heard good things about the original Puzzle Quest, hell I even played the game for awhile although I lost interest due to another game coming out at the same time - you see puzzle games aren't exactly my forte but Puzzle Quest was an RPG/puzzle game hybrid, it's Australian and it was inexpensive, so I thought why not try it? My fiance really got into it, clocked it and also got it on her DS. So there's definitely at least one fan of the game in this household. Which brings us to the most recent incarnation of Puzzle Quest: Galactrix. What got me excited about this one is that it's set in a sci-fi setting (which I much prefer over fantasy) and the gameplay promised to be slightly different using a hexagonal grid yet with the same Match-3 gameplay.

After finishing the game and playing around with it a bit more the second time around, I'm satisfied I've got enough info to write a review, so here it is:

Sound (3/5)
Sound in the game is your typical sci-fi fare (lasers, shields, etc.) and is done well. In terms of voices there's just the stereotypical female monotone that narrates different events in battle such as "Shields Critical" or "Hull Critical".

Puzzle Quest Galactrix General Gameplay Video

Music (5/5)
Music in the game is pretty good, even though it sounds like MIDI quality at some stages. The music is fitting for the sci-fi genre and they're actually catchy - don't be surprised if you find yourself humming a few bars as the game grows on you!

Puzzle Quest Galactrix Combat Video

Graphics (2/5)
I'm not such a big fan of the graphics in this most recent incarnation of Puzzle Quest. Sure, I know graphics isn't meant to be the strong point in these sort of games anyway, but I think they may have even taken a step backwards from the original Puzzle Quest. The font and graphics uses for speech bubbles is ugly and even though they should get kudos for using 3D graphics instead of 2D sprites, some of the graphics they've chosen for planets and leap gates are either dull, in the case of the former, or nonsensical, in the case of the latter (the gate is a solid hexagon).

Also, there's even less customisation of characters than Challenge of the Warlords (if you can believe that) - you now can only pick from a grand total of four character portraits for your avatar.

Puzzle Quest Galactrix Hacking Mini-game Video

Plot (2/5)
The plot is your typical sci-fi plot. You start off as a recent graduate of MRI Academy (the MRI being one of four human Megacorps that rule the known universe) doing some simple tasks for your employers when things start getting a bit interesting. A virus strikes the Leap Gate network (the means of travel around the universe) inhibiting travel and you also discover some MRI test subjects that have escaped Gemini Labs. The game takes you around the known universe until you discover an enemy called "the Soulless" which threaten to wipe out life as you know it unless they are stopped.

Even though the plot is somewhat cliched it would've been fine if it wasn't for the main antagonist's pretentious attempt at being sinister and mysterious during the several cut scenes you'll see and quite frankly, they get old pretty quick. Would've been nice to have some variety or have cut scenes that show how you help the universe due to your progress.

Puzzle Quest Galactrix Crafting Mini-Game

The game is very similar in its mechanics to the original Puzzle Quest (at least its RPG elements). In terms of the puzzle, it's still Match-3 but now using a hexagonal grid. So instead of there being only one way that gems can drop there are six to choose from (and this can get quite tricky when the item "Orbital Array" is in use which causes the gems to rotate around). This makes the game a lot more challenging and potentially more frustrating for some. Sometimes it even seems that mines are randomly generated off-screen to give an advantage to computer players (but then again, I'm no puzzle game expert). Thankfully, for those who aren't experts, if you happen to play your cards right and balance your skills, have the right items and the right ship, it'll substantially push battles in your favour - so much so that you'll rarely lose battles. However, this doesn't help RPG aficionados escaping puzzles in other aspects.

In Puzzle Quest Galactrix, just about everything requires you to do puzzles. If you want to get someplace, you need to hack a leap gate by doing a puzzle (which offers no reward besides becoming unlocked I might add). If you want to avoid combat when travelling through hostile systems, you can't unless you've done a long quest, meaning you have to do more puzzles. There's also puzzle mini-games for mining, haggling and crafting items but at least these ones are optional for those who only can stand a certain amount of puzzles. Also the only way you can level is through combat puzzles as white (intel) gems are required in order to do so (besides completing quests, which usually involves doing puzzles).

Also, if you wanted to be a peaceful sort of character in Puzzle Quest Galactrix, you don't really get that option. You'll have to do a lot of attacking in side quests and even in the main storyline, without the option for a peaceful solution - which is rather annoying as you had much more choice in the original Puzzle Quest. There's only two real ways to level up in Puzzle Quest Galactrix too which either involves fighting or completing quests (which, as mentioned earlier, usually involves fighting). Fortunately, later on you get a crew members that allows you to get "rumours" off planets and by completing a Rumour puzzle mini-game you can get free experience points without the need to attack anyone and is pretty much the only option to level up for you peaceniks out there.

There are also some minor interface issues like some quests not giving a list of what you have to do in the quest log, no key to instantly open your Character Info/Inventory and some star systems get stuck behind dialogs on the map screen (but fortunately you can still click on them). However, these are only minor quibbles and aren't enough to subtract points from the Gameplay score.

Finally, there were so many features of this game that if they expanded upon, would've made the game so much better. For starters, the game seems similar to those good ol' space trading games of yesteryear like Elite or Privateer. You can freely roam across the galaxy mining and trading resources for cash, which you can use to upgrade your ships or even buy new ones. There are even different factions that you can either increase of decrease your reputation with. Unfortunately, it doesn't really have much of an impact, unless you have poor standing in which case that faction's ships will attack you more frequently if you enter their systems. How great would it be if by having good standing with a faction you would gain access to more quests or better weapons and ships? How about sub-plots revolving around the factions? There's a lot that could be done there which modders will hopefully pick up on.

Puzzle Quest Galactrix Haggle Mini-game

Replayability (4/5)
Multiplayer is okay and would've been perfect if the Quick Rematch option worked (although apparently other people don't suffer this problem, so maybe it's just me!). This adds some replayability to the game. Also since Puzzle Quest Galactrix is a puzzle/RPG hybrid, its RPG elements allow for some replayability - you actually get a choice at the end of the game for two possible ending (and it's kind of cunning since it forces you to play the game again in order to get the alternative ending).

It seems the game also encourages replayability as the second time you play, all leap gates are unlocked so if you're like me and get annoyed by doing puzzles for no reward (besides being able to travel somewhere) you'll be glad to know it's easier the next time you play!

Overall the game has no major pitfalls and there is no DRM (hooray)! The interface is simple and intuitive and tutorials abound at the beginning of the game. Multiplayer can be buggy though and I've read complaints about Internet play not working for some.

Puzzle Quest Galactrix Rumours Mini-game

Overall - 67%
Value for money Puzzle/RPG hybrid (with more of an emphasis on the puzzles this time around) and it's Australian made!