Galactrix also offers way more non-battle variations on the core puzzle mechanic than its predecessor. The most frequent non-battle you’ll encounter is leapgate hacking, which allows you to travel from one star system to the next across the map. To hack a leapgate, you must match a specific number of gems in a queue before time runs out, and each leapgate varies in difficulty. In addition to hacking, there are four other minigames to contend with: mining asteroids for cargo, crafting items, searching for rumors (which flesh out the story and give you experience points) and haggling (to lower shop prices).
All of these minigames do offer a commendable amount of variety, but the problem is this: the battles are still the best part! Since the other puzzle variations are often necessary to get through the story (especially hacking leapgates), the battles end up being fewer and further between than we would have liked. We really enjoyed the hacking minigame at first, because racing against the clock was rather exciting, but it wears thin after awhile because you have to do it so frequently. And since you don’t gain any experience from hacking, it starts to feel like a waste of time pretty quickly.
Fortunately, the excess of minigames is only a problem in story mode, and there’s a convenient quick battle option that pairs you up with an evenly matched AI opponent whenever you want. Even better, find a friend for multiplayer battles. If your friend’s character isn’t up to snuff, he can even select among some ready-made ships so the battle will be more evenly matched. The only downside is that the DS version doesn’t have cart sharing, which we would have liked to see included.
On an odd and unfortunate note, Galactrix has the worst load times we’ve ever seen in a DS game. None are particularly long– no more than a few seconds each – but they’re incredibly frequent. From the world map, just hitting X to bring up your inventory will take a few seconds to load. Backing out to the world map again will trigger both another two to three second load time AND an autosave, which takes another few seconds. The original Puzzle Quest didn’t have any load times, and there’s nothing here that should be pushing the system even remotely, so we’re not sure why the loads are so bad. It doesn’t diminish our enjoyment too much, but it’s an unfortunate blemish, especially since a lot of special care obviously went in to custom-tailoring the DS version for the smaller screen.
Its handful of smallsetbacks are just about evenly balanced with its improvements though, so Galactrix still offers an addictive, puzzle-meets-RPG experience that won’t disappoint most fans of the original PQ, as well as anyone looking for an accessible game that still packs plenty of substance.
Feb 20, 2009