Galactrix Is an Okay Falling-Blocks Torture Device

Galactrix in particular

It gave me a ship!
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
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 :) )