Galactrix Is an Okay Falling-Blocks Torture Device

Galactrix in particular


It gave me a ship!
I tried out the Galactrix (milk tricks? someone who dominates with milk?) flash demo. 

I like that you can control the direction that the pieces fall in, because it almost answers a problem I had with Puzzle Quest, where you'd have an OK combo, or even a regular move, and then all this stuff would fall in that would set your opponent up nicely.  At least here you feel like an idiot when you open up the board near some damaging blocks, since that invites disaster.  Still, feeling like an idiot isn't that much better than feeling like you can't control the game.

The computer player is efficient, and often deadly, but sometimes it (and the hint system) don't seem to pick the best moves.  Either it can see into the future and has some sort of meta design for my defeat, or the game behavior needs some punching up.

The color blindness aspect is problematic, when I can't tell the difference between the green and yellow, and the green and yellow on the side of the board, the statistics that tell you how much you have in reserve, is indistinguishable to me.  I have to say "ok, the rough-looking one is on the bottom."  Hard to remember.

I like that the gems do different things, although I'd be interested to know if these powers change depending on the ship and the pilot.  I also enjoy the music, which I hope changes throughout the game, but it was something I liked about Puzzle Quest and it seems they put the same priority on music as before.  Got the space music thing going on.  Reminds me of Ascendancy.  Nice.

The demo still a bit rough, too, as the text doesn't match the powers exactly (the trident laser says that you don't spend your turn if you use it, but you most certainly do).  This, plus my suspicion that the game behavior isn't optimal (or perhaps it is beyond my meager intelligence), makes me think that it has a ways to go yet. 

Here's the big problem, though, and it has to do with so-called puzzle games as a species:


Puzzle games in general


OCD nightmare
When I think puzzle, I tend to think a thing that can be solved.  Tetris would count for me, even though it can't be solved, because the pieces are all laid out for you, the next piece in line is shown, and it's up to you to figure out the best place.  It's tactical in that sense, but smart play will make it easier to prevent disaster.  Games like Puzzle Quest, Galactrix, and a lot of the "wow, splosions!" line of puzzle games tend to stray away from puzzles a bit too much.  I'm not sure what else you'd call it, but when I make a sensible match, and then I get a big combination of matches after that that I didn't plan on, I certainly feel a bit happy, but I don't feel like I earned it one bit.  And it's just as frustrating when hapless AI manages to pull off a huge combination with pieces it couldn't have known were coming.  Feels cheap both ways.

It's not to say that the definition of puzzle shouldn't include these sorts of games, although that would make my life a lot easier, it's that some of these games feel more like rolling dice than figuring things out.  The RPG elements actually save Puzzle Quest and the Galactrix demo from being just irritating time wasters to me, I guess because it makes the game feel like a means to an end instead of a falling-blocks torture device.

Maybe I need a little schoolin'.  I'm not sure of the history of puzzle games in general, but does anyone have examples of what they think were good or bad puzzle games, and why?

(Originally I used the word interesting, but I'm not sure the demo is enough to interest me after extended play sessions; I'd need a demo on the level of the old Puzzle Quest demo before I could be made to care any more :) )
4 Comments
5 Comments
Posted by ahoodedfigure

Galactrix in particular


It gave me a ship!
I tried out the Galactrix (milk tricks? someone who dominates with milk?) flash demo. 

I like that you can control the direction that the pieces fall in, because it almost answers a problem I had with Puzzle Quest, where you'd have an OK combo, or even a regular move, and then all this stuff would fall in that would set your opponent up nicely.  At least here you feel like an idiot when you open up the board near some damaging blocks, since that invites disaster.  Still, feeling like an idiot isn't that much better than feeling like you can't control the game.

The computer player is efficient, and often deadly, but sometimes it (and the hint system) don't seem to pick the best moves.  Either it can see into the future and has some sort of meta design for my defeat, or the game behavior needs some punching up.

The color blindness aspect is problematic, when I can't tell the difference between the green and yellow, and the green and yellow on the side of the board, the statistics that tell you how much you have in reserve, is indistinguishable to me.  I have to say "ok, the rough-looking one is on the bottom."  Hard to remember.

I like that the gems do different things, although I'd be interested to know if these powers change depending on the ship and the pilot.  I also enjoy the music, which I hope changes throughout the game, but it was something I liked about Puzzle Quest and it seems they put the same priority on music as before.  Got the space music thing going on.  Reminds me of Ascendancy.  Nice.

The demo still a bit rough, too, as the text doesn't match the powers exactly (the trident laser says that you don't spend your turn if you use it, but you most certainly do).  This, plus my suspicion that the game behavior isn't optimal (or perhaps it is beyond my meager intelligence), makes me think that it has a ways to go yet. 

Here's the big problem, though, and it has to do with so-called puzzle games as a species:


Puzzle games in general


OCD nightmare
When I think puzzle, I tend to think a thing that can be solved.  Tetris would count for me, even though it can't be solved, because the pieces are all laid out for you, the next piece in line is shown, and it's up to you to figure out the best place.  It's tactical in that sense, but smart play will make it easier to prevent disaster.  Games like Puzzle Quest, Galactrix, and a lot of the "wow, splosions!" line of puzzle games tend to stray away from puzzles a bit too much.  I'm not sure what else you'd call it, but when I make a sensible match, and then I get a big combination of matches after that that I didn't plan on, I certainly feel a bit happy, but I don't feel like I earned it one bit.  And it's just as frustrating when hapless AI manages to pull off a huge combination with pieces it couldn't have known were coming.  Feels cheap both ways.

It's not to say that the definition of puzzle shouldn't include these sorts of games, although that would make my life a lot easier, it's that some of these games feel more like rolling dice than figuring things out.  The RPG elements actually save Puzzle Quest and the Galactrix demo from being just irritating time wasters to me, I guess because it makes the game feel like a means to an end instead of a falling-blocks torture device.

Maybe I need a little schoolin'.  I'm not sure of the history of puzzle games in general, but does anyone have examples of what they think were good or bad puzzle games, and why?

(Originally I used the word interesting, but I'm not sure the demo is enough to interest me after extended play sessions; I'd need a demo on the level of the old Puzzle Quest demo before I could be made to care any more :) )
Posted by ArbitraryWater

 I agree with you that Bejewled and its imitators really don't involve puzzles. To me a puzzle game is something that forces you to think with logic rather than matching sets of gems in a row.
A good example of one is Professor Layton, which has a bunch of those. Of course I suck at logic puzzles and immediately got frustrated when I couldn't solve one, so take that as you will...

Posted by ahoodedfigure

Yeah, well, puzzles can frustrate me too.  I like logic puzzles to a point, and some other kinds, but I don't do too well with many, and I consider them a learning device rather than escapist entertainment.  The gem-matching stuff can be entertaining, and fun when you get a nice combination, but since they tend not to reward you for planning so much as blind luck, it's pretty fair to say there's not much puzzling going on.

Edited by Fade2Gray

I agree 100% with your evaluation of 'puzzle' games in general. They really do feel more like rolling the dice rather than logic or strategic problems. That was my big problem with PQ. I loved it at first for its premise , but before long I just got frustrated with that feeling that too many things were beyond my control and the near omniscient opponents who always found a way to set up 5 combo chains with pieces that weren't even on the board yet. I disagree with you though about Galactrix feeling more in your control. By bringing in pieces from any direction (even when you get to choose from which direction) I found that it actually confounds the problem of randomness and opponent omniscience since you have even less opportunity to plan ahead for possible scenarios. Any random piece could wined up at nearly any point of the board in Galactrix. I was hopeful for this game, but that demo has pretty effectively steered me away.

Posted by ahoodedfigure

Thanks for your comment.  My biggest problem with PQ-type games is inviting combinations from the opponent.  At least in this one, while bombs can still come from any direction, I can control where the new stuff comes in.  While it's not always safe, sometimes I can make it so new bombs don't go near the ones already on the board, setting up an easy offensive combo for the opponent.  Not that I always pay attention, and sometimes it happens despite my caution, but at least it isn't a linear rain on my head like the original PQ.