veektarius's Gyromancer (Xbox 360 Games Store) review

Square did their part, though PopCap phoned theirs in.

It'd be pretty hard to write a review of Gyromancer without comparing it to Puzzle Quest, though I'll quickly summarize the genre for those of you who skipped the older game.  Both are set in a fantasy world where you play the hero sent on an epic fantasy style quest.  Instead of random encounters taking you to a turn-based battle system, you're taken to a puzzle grid map where you play a game of what is essentially Bejeweled.  In the case of Puzzle Quest, this game was substantially altered by two things - first, that your character had abilities that could be charged up to alter the face of the board, and second, that you had an opponent alternating turns with you and with abilities of his own. 
It is in this 'gameplay' portion, inarguably where you will be spending most of your Gyromancer time, that it is most inferior.  It is essentially a straight copy of "Bejeweled twist", where you can twist a block of four gems clockwise in order to match them.  As you match up gems, like in Puzzle Quest, you'll charge up your abilities (actually, the abilities of one of three pets you bring with you to any map-area), but two things are different.  First, abilities are the only way to damage your opponent, and second, your opponent does not take turns of his own.  Instead, over time (more quickly if you play badly), his own abilities will charge and appear as bombs on the gaming grid that you have to try to remove in a certain amount of time. 
 This game is challenging and not significantly less fun than the Puzzle Quest version, and in fact it does away with some of the frustrations that came from having control taken out of your hands by the computer. But it really suffers from failing to integrate the RPG aspect as well as its predecessor.  Though the puzzle format is a very abstract way to portray combat in any event, it still 'felt' more reasonable when your opponent was actually playing against you than it does playing by oneself, and though you get more powerful pets with more powerful abilities, they never reach a point where they fundamentally alter the basic puzzle game like they did at high levels in puzzle quest.
If it were only a puzzle game, I would recommend Puzzle Quest over this to everyone - however, I had several problems with Puzzle Quest that this game does an admirable job of correcting.  First, it has better music - written, if I don't miss my guess, by the same composer who did Last Remnant, and I'd be very surprised if the script writer wasn't the one who localized FFXII.  I found the music in Puzzle Quest grating and the story to be at the level of a kid scribbling on a napkin, and ultimately, the puzzle board wasn't enough to keep me coming back.  Though I'd hardly say Gyromancer's story and music are Final Fantasy quality, they are both interesting enough to make the repetitiveness grate a bit less, and so I find myself putting a lot more time into it.   
Ultimately, Gyromancer is a collaboration between the work of two studios, SquareEnix and PopCap games.  SquareEnix did its part - the art, story and music are above par for a downloadable game, but PopCap really didn't put enough time into creating a unique product for the puzzle portion.  While functional, the decision on whether to lay your money down depends entirely on where your priorities lie for a game like this.


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