To say that I loved Puzzle Quest: Challenger of the Warlords would be a gross understatement. When I first got the preview build of the PSP game I instantly fell in love, shouting my admiration from the rooftops. Over the course of 2007 I must have put hundreds of hours into that game, which was a large contributing factor to why I named it my game of 2007. I have an emotional connection to the game as well; when I suffered second degree burns on my right hand, Puzzle Quest DS was the only game I could play. Between the two portable versions and the Xbox Live Arcade expansion pack, I put more time into this little puzzler than just about any other game.
So given my love and excitement for the game, you might think that I would automatically love D3's brand new spin-off, Puzzle Quest Galactrix. After all, it takes everything that was good about the original Puzzle Quest and trades in the fantasy for the sci-fi (or, if you know you're classic RPGs, it trades "Fantasy" for "Phantasy"). But alas, there's just something about this 2009 model that isn't the same. It looks and feels like Puzzle Quest, but there are enough changes to keep it from living up to my (albeit lofty) expectations.
As you can tell from the name, Puzzle Quest Galactrix takes place in space. You play one of several young pilots who just graduated from the Space Academy and is looking to earn some money around the solar system. The story is generic sci-fi through and through, and like the original game, it's easy to avoid. I'm sure there are people that will find something to like about the endless conversations these unlikable characters have, but for me the stories have always been inconsequential to the fun of the game.
This time around you are free to move around the entire galaxy. You use a gigantic map full of various systems, from Talus to Gemini to Alpha Centauri all the way down to Gehenna. Each of these systems has a series of planets, moons and space stations to visit. You can mine for minerals on the various moons, search for missions on the planets and take on any number of warships. In a lot of ways this map is no different from what we saw in the original Puzzle Quest, but there's definitely something cool about tooling around such an expansive solar system.
Much like the first game, the one on one combat is the real draw. And while the basic idea remains the same (match puzzle pieces to inflict enough damage to take out your opponent), the actual combat is a bit different. In the original Puzzle Quest you match pieces on a Bejeweled-style game board. However, in this game you are playing in a Hexic-style board, that is to say instead of only having four directions to match, you now have to deal with six. At first this seems like an interesting twist on the original gameplay, but before long I started to have major issues with this approach.
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