Puzzle Quest: Galactrix - First look

The sci-fi sequel boldly goes where no puzzler has gone before: antigravity

You’ve played Puzzle Quest, right? One of the biggest cult hits of the past few years, it combined colored gems puzzle gameplay (it was basically Bejeweled) with the spells, quests and monsters that usually live in role-playing games. The result was a captivating little puzzle game that mesmerized most players for 100 hours or more. A challenge then arose: when the original is that perfect, what do you do for this year’s encore? The solution, apparently, is to buy it a ray gun and give it magnetic space boots.

Above: All images in this article are from the Xbox Live Arcade version

Puzzle Quest: Galactrix transplants the action from the first game’s medieval fantasy setting into the realm of science fiction. So you’re blasting holes in spaceships instead of hacking zombie spiders into pieces, you’ll collect more ships instead of party members, find blueprints for new ships and create new guns instead of buying helmets and swords, and so on.

But that’s actually not the biggest change. No, there’s one huge difference in the puzzling gameplay itself: the gems aren’t round any more. They’re hexagons, so you’re not looking at a standard grid; you’re working with a hex grid. And the difference isn’t just cosmetic.

Basically, there are three axes now instead of two. Before, you were trying to line your gems up in a row either horizontally or vertically. Those were the only two options. Now, they can go in three directions: vertical, diagonally sloping downward, or diagonal rising upward. If that’s tough to visualize, think of a capital I and the two lines that make up an X, and you’ll have it.

There’s more. If you’re battling in deep space- as opposed to battling while orbiting a planet - there’s no gravity. This means new gems won’t always fall from the top. Instead, they’ll often come in from the bottom or sides, depending upon the direction of your last move. These two bits of subtle evolution make a huge difference in the way you see the board.

Beyond that massive tweak, Puzzle Quest: Galactrix is almost identical to the first game. However, every element of the gameplay has been deftly reworked to fit into its new setting. The battles might be spaceship to spaceship now (though you may be able to leave the ship and fight planetside as well- it’s still undecided), but most everything still does what you’d expect it to do.

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