In space, no one can hear you scream obscenitities.
If you have a famous parent, it’s a tough thing to live up to the expectations of their greatness. Sean Lennon may have a decent following, but he’s nowhere near as profound or talented as his father, John. Living in the shadow of an insanely successful mom or dad is never easy. You have to deal with the constant comparisons. You become a CliffsNote to their lives.
[image1]Puzzle Quest: Galactrix seeks to distance itself from its parent title in an attempt to show that it’s unique, trading in the Dungeons and Dragons-type fantasy world of the original Puzzle Quest for a futuristic sci-fi outer space epic. It tries to distinguish itself with a new gameboard as well and some tweaked features. But sadly, it breaks under the pressure of trying to be as great as its Pops.
There are some serious mistakes in the design of Galactrix. Some of the qualities that made the first game so great are completely gone and have been replaced by the mundane. First, you can’t choose a character class; you’re only allowed to select a gender. There are no more abilities unique to your avatar, no more choosing what you’ll look like. You’re just some dude on a spaceship working for a intergalactic corporation. All of your skills come from whatever spaceship and crew members you have. It completely removes any sense of self and leaves you feeling like nothing but a speck of dust amongst the stars rather than a Han Solo-esque hero saving the universe.
The plot has been also blown up to a cosmic scale, literally. As a fresh MRI recruit, you are sent to investigate a distress signal from a lab on a local planet. What you discover there leads you on an adventure through the cosmos in search of answers, but that only turns up more questions. If you are a fan of Ray Bradbury books or enjoy a late night marathon of Battlestar Galactica, then you’ll probably be intrigued by the story, but don’t expect the writing to be of quite the same caliber.
As you travel, you’ll take on crew members. Really they’re just a way for you to unlock new abilities and help you gain access to new areas as opposed to giving you various bonuses. Oddly, there seems to be a hint of anti-Semitism in the design of one of your companions, Petz. Hailing from a rat-like alien race called Jahrwoxi, he is despised by the rest of your crew but gives you the ability to haggle (in fact, he has to as a matter of pride). Maybe I’m reading too deep into it, but my initial reaction to the character’s introduction was that they were making fun of Jews.
[image2]Haggling, mining asteroids, hacking leapgates, and fighting battles are all essentially the same game with slight variations. Sometimes, you’ll have a time limit and have to match sets of three hexagons in a specific order; other times, you’ll just have to make matches until you can’t anymore. It all takes place on the same hexagonal grid that has replaced the simple yet fun design of the classic square Bejeweled gameboard.
How you choose to move the pieces will also affect what direction replacement pieces fill in the gaps (move a gem up and left, and everything will move that way too). It’s a clever new twist but seems to operate under the assumption that you played the hell out of the first one (which I did) and are looking for a tougher, more complicated challenge. The biggest issue, though, is while it is a clever design, the game itself is just not as fun as the first one. You end up hacking leapgates more often than anything else and it gets frustratingly annoying quick. Since they need to be opened in order to reach new quadrants and complete missions, it is required.
There’s no reward or experience gained at all, which is what was so great about the original. Everything you did came with a reward of some sort. Without that sort of Pavlovian prize for completing tasks, you become less inclined to continue, knowing that you’re only giving yourself more annoying gates to hack.
Back in the original, making items and taming mounts involved the same board but with unique strategies for each that broke up the monotony of monster fighting. Now it all feels boring and super repetitive. It’s a sad state of affairs.
[image3]Sequels usually improve on the originals, but this particular title seems to have taken a step in the wrong direction. The monotony of playing the same puzzle over and over with only superficial variations, and the lack of depth or intrigue to the characters makes the whole experience lacking in enticement. It’s what I imagine being Bob Dylan’s son, Jakob, is like. Galactrix just caved into all the pressure to be like its father, snapped, and said, “Screw it. I’m just gonna be the game that I want to be.” Well, look how well it worked for you, Jake. While dad’s music continues to inspire, you can buy 20 Wallflowers CDs for about half a penny nowadays.
I played the hell out of Challenge of the Warlords. I even made it my Editor’s Choice in 2007. Unfortunately, I won’t be playing D3’s newest incarnation quite as much. If the the old school Puzzle Quest is mega-addicting black tar heroin, then the new one is some brown weed that barely gets you high and leaves you with little more than a headache and a bad taste in your mouth.