Puzzle Quest

Date Sat, July 24 2010

In the past few months, I’ve picked up several puzzle/RPG games for my Nintendo DS from Infinite Interactive. I have had the chance to play and beat two of them: Puzzle Quest Challenge of the Warlords and Puzzle Quest Galactrix. Because they are so similar, I thought I’d do a combined review. Although similar, these are two different games. Actually, Puzzle Quest 2 (the sequel to Battle of the Warlords–the first game) just came out, if I recall correctly.

There are definitely some similarities. Both are puzzle RPGS, so you complete puzzles to battle opponents and succeed at other quests. There are multiple puzzle types for competing different tasks. The gems you clear in the puzzles provides you with magic/mana to attack your opponent. You play a single character, with the option to pick up NPC party members throughout the game. There is a main plotline, with significant quests, and side quests to keep you busy. Depending on your choices of action, you may not be able to do certain quests or the game may end differently. You can purchase or create items to aid you in the game.

Pretty standard. I found it interesting because I like puzzle games. I was hoping these would get me into more complex games (RPGs) so I bought them both. There’s a few differences, though. Challenge of the Warlords is set in the traditional fantasy world with people and trolls and orcs, etc. Galactrix, if you couldn’t tell by the name, has a science fiction theme. They’re both pretty cliche in their own ways but I did find Galactrix slightly more appealing, for whatever reason.

Additionally, you outfit your character with items such as armor and weapons in Challenge of the Warlords, whereas you choose a ship and outfit it with weapons and tools in Galactrix. Again, I preferred the Galactrix method, if only because it’s simpler. Your ship can only handle so much weaponry, CPU and engine technology at once (it varies between ships). I understood that easily and enjoyed working within those confines. If you prefer RPGs over puzzles, then you may just like Challenge of the Warlords more, instead. There are no limits regarding certain “energies,” you have more options when you choose items. I personally felt like I had more opportunities to mess up my character because of this.

Another big difference is the puzzle playing boards. Challenge of the Warlords boasts a square board with grids containing circular gems, not unlike Bewjeweled. The playing board is round in Galactrix and the pieces, hexagonal. Both games require you to match 3 same-coloured gems to clear them from the board. The gems can add to your mana/Energy, experience/Intel, health/shields, money (in Challenge) or Psi Points (in Galactrix). There are also bomb pieces that inflict damage upon your opponent. Each skill or weapon equipped requires a specific configuration of gems to use. For example, you may need 7 red gems and 8 yellows to use a specific gem.

But if you play the puzzles and plan to rely on luck, you’ll probably start losing quickly. The puzzles do require skill and you have to think ahead several turns. You do not simply want to make the easier move. For example, when you get 4-of-a-kind or more, you earn bonuses such has extra gems or turns. You can earn more gems by starting a chain reaction and longer reactions may earn you additional turns.

Psi Points are unique to Galactrix. When you unlock the points (by completing side quests), you have the ability to use them against potential opponents. For example, if a pirate ship wants to attack, you can avoid the battle by using the skill. It’s interesting. I happened to notice that the game frequently froze when I used Psi skills, however.

Challenge of the Warlords offers you the option to capture your opponents and learn their skills (there exists a comparable feature to learn schematics of an enemy’s weapons in Galactrix). You may even use certain enemies as a mount and gain their skills. Additionally, you can train these mounts by beating them in times battles on the puzzle screen. In fact, each game offers some side puzzles that I enjoyed. However, those side puzzles tend to be more necessary to complete the game in Galactrix. Some players might find this annoying. I can see both sides.

In order to participate in any of those additional puzzles in Challenge of the Warlords, you must enter your citadel. You can only do this if you have successfully attacked the city you’re in. Otherwise, you have to go to the nearest city that you attacked to access the citadel. There isn’t anything really comparable to this in Galaxtrix. It’s interesting but kind of requires you to siege cities if you wish to be able to make items or train your mount at any given time.

There are more differences between the games but, for the sake of length, I’ll start to wrap this up. I have several major complaints about both games. The gems are so small in Challenge of the Warlords that I often wound up touching the wrong one with the stylus. Because it happened so quickly, I’d lose a turn for making an incorrect move. My major complaint in Galactrix is that the puzzles take a long time. There’s this little animation whenever you clear gems from the screen that adds just fractions of a second to each turn. They really add up, however. Some people prefer this because the matches can be over so quickly in Challenge of the Warlords that you might as well not even play it. Lastly, there are a ridiculous number of save and load screens in Galactrix, which also adds to the time you spend sitting around bored

In fact, a lot of my complaints about both of these games seem to center around the fact that there is a happy medium that both somehow miss. The games go too quickly in Challenge of the Warlords but too slowly in Galactrix. Different puzzles types aren’t as accessible as they could be in Challenge of the Warlords but the frequency becomes an annoying in Galactrix.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the game play of Galactrix better but I enjoyed the ending of the other. I found myself skipping through some of the interactions in the game, so I actually made a decision that ended the game without my realization in Galactrix. The plot had fewer options in Challenge of the Warlords so I easily knew where to go and what to do and why (to defeat the boss). It’s a shame because I feel like the plot of Galactrix was slightly more interesting.

Neither Puzzle Quest game was perfect but neither was horrible, either (foreshadowing: they’re both amazing compared to II’s other title: Puzzle Chronicles). You can bet I’ll eventually pick up Puzzle Quest 2. Indeed, as soon as I publish this, I’m going to check out the new website.

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