Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Puzzle Quest Galactrix: You Have Short Circuited The Leap Gate. Would You Like To Reset And Try Again?

I've been looking forward to Puzzle Quest: Galactrix since the day they announced the game.

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords was a ridiculously good game, one of my favorite games of 2007, and I had every reason to expect Galactrix to be even better.

And it is, mostly. Galactrix is set in outer space, has a very satisfying science fiction sheen to it, and the new puzzle mechanic is generally fantastic, because directional drops add a very complex element to the puzzles. As simply as I can describe it, the direction you move a piece to generate a match determines which direction the remaining pieces move to fill the gap when the match is removed. That doesn't sound like much when I write it, but trust me, it's a wonderful game mechanic in action.

Let me try to summarize the game as simply as I can: it combines elements of an RPG and a turn-based strategy game, but it substitutes match puzzles for the traditional action mechanics.

Hell, yes. Something different, and different in a good way.

There is, however, one sticking point.

One of the puzzle types is used to open jump gates that transport you from one galaxy to another. It's designed in a manner that I can only describe as completely unfair, for two reasons. The first is that while it's a timed puzzle, the timer keeps counting down during multiple match sequences (when you initiate one match, which moves pieces on the board, which fires off another match, etc.). There are times when four of five of these matches can fire off consecutively, and all the while, your timer is counting down. There is nothing worse than having one match left to open the gate, seeing it on the board, and being unable to click on it before the timer runs off because a sequence of matches has turned you into a spectator.

That is bad design.

The second reason is that there are times when you are unfairly denied credit for a match. The way this puzzle works is that you have to find matches of certain units in the order specified by the game. So let's say you have to find a yellow match, followed by a purple match. If you find a yellow match, and the piece movement causes a purple match to happen almost simultaneously, you don't get credit for that purple match. It seems to be time-related (they have to happen almost at the same time), and I'm guessing that it might be a bug, but it makes an already very difficult puzzle even harder.

The first few jump gates in the game are classified as "Easy," and the time limits on those are no problem. After that, though, it's trouble.

As a gamer, I love these guys. They're innovative and unique, and their games are very, very fun. And I think they'll do something to correct this. But it's killing me right now, because all I want to do is sit down and play this game for hours on end.

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