Reviewed: April 27, 2009
Released: April 8, 2009
Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before. Oops, sorry, wrong story.
All things space related are coming back center stage with the impending Star Trek film releasing next month, which is all some of my friends are talking about. So while their doing that, I think its time I give you a taste of space exploration of a different sort. Infinite Interactive, known for their incredibly addictive match three Puzzle Quest franchise, takes things straight into the atmosphere with the release of Puzzle Quest: Galactrix for Xbox Live Arcade on the Xbox 360.
Puzzle Quest: Galactrix has essentially the same principle as its predecessors but that is about it. This time the adventure takes place in our own time or rather in our future. After a great war (would that be WWIII) destroys Earth, four mega-corporations rises from the ashes of our home world to assume leadership of mankind. Soon enough mankind turns to the stars for a new place to live. What they find is that there are hundred of other life forms living in other galaxies.
Puzzle Quest: Galactrix starts up about 100 years after that cataclysmic war and now humanity has become a stable presence among the other races. Thatís were you the player come in. You a soon to be rogue pilot are tasked with hunting down a experiment gone horribly wrong while you and its skip across a universe all the while trying to stop the genocide that will happen if the mega-corporations canít get their act together. Sounds fun, doesnít it?
While you are treading the edges of various political factions you will mine commodities, build up a fleet of ships, meet new alien races and hack leap gates in this awesome match three adventure. The fun only starts there as you must master a whole new board and a new gem shift system.
In Challenge of the Warlords, players were able to choose from an array of different classes to choose. This time around your choices are limited to either a male or female pilot. Is this a disappointment? Not really. How many different types of space pilots do you know? Donít answer that. No matter what you choose the action ensues pretty quickly after you are given a brief tutorial.
Navigation is also different as you direct your ship around the map with your left analog stick. Puzzle Quest: Galactrix does not use the same snap to system that Warlords did so you can accidentally send you ship off into the corner of the screen (which isnít bad) if you hit the stick accidentally. Despite that revelation I actually like it as it gives Puzzle Quest: Galactrix more of that deep space feel to it.
The most noticeable change is the removal of the old 8x8 grid and the placing of a new board setting that reminds me of the Tabula Rasa logo a bit. The gems themselves get a facelift as the go hexagonal adding a bit more of a challenge as you now have 6 different direction of gameplay to work with. The standard gameplay of matching three gems is still there but now that you are in zero gravity it affect the way the gems shift. So if you swap gems in an upward fashion then all the affected gems with go up. Itís a nice change of pace and it adds more of a challenge as well.
Combat is done much like it was done in Warlords but now you are using items like lasers to inflict damage or give you self a boost instead of spells. You can upgrade you ships array of weapons by using credits gained from selling commodities. You will also be able to have up to three ships in your possession t a time throughout your journey though only one may be used in battle. Each ship that you buy or build from plans will have different stats which will vary from fast an agile to heavily fortified ships.
Players will also take on crew members along the way as well as alien companions. Like previous titles all interaction with the crew or other NPCs is done through text boxes. So alas no voice acting other than what you here from the creepy dude on the title art. Most of the conversations are serious in nature but there are moments of comic relief that make Puzzle Quest: Galactrix an enjoyable title.
The multiplayer is made up of Quick Battles where players take their pilots from the single-player campaign to fight with other players locally or online just like the previous titles. Puzzle Quest: Galactrix also features leaderboards, voice chat, and matchmaking. The multiplayer features are welcome, giving the title a bit more replay value.
The graphics of Puzzle Quest: Galactrix are again gorgeous and befit a title in the Puzzle Quest franchise. I really like the way the different Galaxies look as well as the overall universe. The planets and stations seen in each galaxy are pretty much the same models used over and over again with different colors and so forth but not too bad over all.
I also like all the little animations such as ships that travel from planet to planet within what ever galaxy that you are currently in. The character art for the characters is also pretty solid despite a complete lack of movement. If you played the previous titles then this is nothing new.
Since all information is given in text form there is no voice acting, but I donít think Puzzle Quest really needs it. The menu title music grabs your attention right off the bat and it follow throughout your experience. The orchestral soundtrack set the mood for this space opera of sorts. Kind of reminds me of Perry Rhodan and the few snippets of Star Wars music that Iíve heard over the years.
Puzzle Quest takes full advantage of Xbox Live by offering both Player Matches and Ranked Player Matches as I mentioned above. So if you think you have what it takes to be the best, then you can duel it out with people for all over the world. You also have a local multiplayer option as well, so you and your buddies can see who the better pilot is. You can also have the option to do a system link setup as well. Puzzle Quest: Galactrix retails for 1600 Microsoft points or about $20 dollars on the Xbox LIVE Arcade Marketplace.
Puzzle Quest: Galactrix is a whole new spin on the casual puzzle genre, mixing a space opera with the intricate workings of a complex game of match three. Having played the previous titles, I have to say that Infinite Interactive made some very cool changes to their formula and came out with another winner that will no doubt addict veteran players all over again. I highly recommend downloading this space opera. If youíre still not sure, thereís always the trail version. Either way I donít think youíll be disappointed.