Compared to its older brother, Galactrix falls by the wayside.
Despite being a relatively young franchise, the Puzzle Quest series has grown in leaps and bounds. After the initial offering, Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords was released onto every platform since the Amiga 1200 in 2007, it was only a matter of time before a sequel was to be announced. Oddly, however, Puzzle Quest: Galactrix is no mere iteration of the original – it is a complete overhaul, with a radical new gameplay experience and atmosphere. Whilst Aussie developers Infinite Interactive should be applauded for their valiant efforts not to rest on the laurels of the originals success, Galactrix is so wildly disparate from its predecessor, it becomes a disjointed and confusing ride.
Galactrix’s futuristic setting and new hexagonal play style distinctly shake up the traditional, bejewelled-esque gameplay of its predecessor. Controlling something more akin to Hexic, the game has you sliding gems on a hexagonal playing field to create a row of three or more of the same colour to gain mana, experience or to deal damage the opponent. Whilst the core concepts remain the same, the new hex-based gameplay makes the game much more confusing and unfriendly than its older brother. Not until after a fair injection of time do you start to get the hang of the mechanics, which is a big no-no for the puzzle-game genre. As a general rule, puzzle games should be quick, simple and fun, not difficult and time-consuming.
Galactrix also attempts to reinvent the wheel by replacing the activities from its predecessor with new ones that feel far too similar to each other to be enjoyable. It’s worth noting too, that whoever thought of making you play a time-based mini-game every time you want to travel to another planet in the galaxy – which is quite sizeable, mind you – should fear for his life, as I’m coming after him as soon as I finish writing this. Nothing detracts you from a gameplay experience like completing the same mind-numbing, frustrating mini-game any time you want to achieve anything or go anywhere.
In the end, what Galactrix presents is a relatively mediocre puzzle game. Repetitive gameplay is a staple of the genre – hell, even the series – but this isn’t a problem until the player begins to actively notice it. This is Galactrix’s failing point – you begin to notice very soon after beginning to play, and you’ll never be able to immerse yourself back into the game. It’s like being at a magic show and knowing how all the tricks are done – once the illusion is gone, the game is pointless. You’ll notice I’ve been relatively harsh on Galactrix, noting very few good aspects about the title. Galactrix isn’t a terrible game. On its own, Galactrix represents an interesting, albeit flawed entrance into the puzzle game market, carrying a decent enough plot and nice graphics and soundtrack. Why then, have I been so harsh on it? Because whilst Puzzle Quest: Galactrix may not be a terrible game, it pales in comparison to its older brother, Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. I’ll confess, I loved Warlords – I played it to completion on PC, Xbox 360 and DS. When I went to Game On in last year, I spent some hour and a half playing it, a game I owned three copies of at home. Warlords cemented the Puzzle Quest branding into the foundations of the genre, showing how a quality title can be created trough the re-envisioning of a classic concept. Puzzle Quest: Galactrix, however, does not achieve this. Perhaps without the Puzzle Quest brand, Galactrix would fare better – but for now, it appears the title has done more harm to the brand name than good. Kudos to Infinite Interactive for trying something new, but better luck next time.