Suppose you're the developer who created Puzzle
Crack Quest: Challenge of the Warlords, and can say with confidence that you are responsible for 1000s of hours of lost sleep and an increase in caffeine consumption in the year 2007. Would you simply sit back and rest on your ... laurels? Not if you're Infinite Interactive. No, you'd buy stock in Starbucks then make a sequel - and put it in space.
If you were unable to purchase Puzzle
Crack Quest: Challenge of the Warlords on DS, PSP, PC, Wii, or XBLA (because they always run out of stock on XBLA) go out and get it now. In a few months, come back and read this and we'll move on. If you can't wait that long, we've got reviews of it on DS here and PC here.
Puzzle Quest is a unique combination of role-playing, strategy and mini-games that combine in a unique way leaving none of the three unsatisfied. Further, the combination is not only compelling — it can cause compulsive behaviors in the most casual of players.
The original, Challenge of the Warlords, was set in a standard fantasy setting of elves, dwarves and humans battling evil. Rather than build a sequel in the same realm, Infinite Interactive decided to wrap their crack in bacon and shoot it into space. And with that, we have Galactrix.
Galactrix is set 10,000 years in the future and posits the question, "What if man had no soul?" (I asked Senior Producer Tim Ramage why we needed advance 10,000 years to ask this question. He said poetic license.) Four mega-corporations, in the name of humankind, have conquered the entire Universe - no, not the Galaxy, the Universe.
Apparently, 10,000 years and contact with the entire Universe isn't enough to humble our egos as one of the four mega-corporations decides it wants more power. It begins experiments that go awry, resulting in some kind of extinction. It is your job, intrepid space explorer, to figure out the mystery and save the Universe! (No pressure.)
The primary means of combat (well, everything - building, training, smithing, etc.) in Challenge of the Warlords is a match-3 puzzle on a square board that drops from the top. The hexagonal shapes on a hexagonal board immediately set Galactrix apart from its predecessor. Now, before you make the mistake that I did and think this is Hexic, it's not. You still need to match three in a row. But there's a bit of a catch.
When your ship - you travel in a ship of course - is on a planet, you are affected by gravity and this will determine the direction the tiles fall when you match three. If gravity sucks downward, the tiles fall downward. However, space doesn't suck. Match three to the right and it fills from the right; match three from the bottom and it fills from the bottom. And very much like its predecessor, combat it turned-based - you are not only determining what move to make but what move to leave. The option to fill the board from 6 sides adds an element of strategy I can't impart in words.
With multiple planets to visit while solving this mystery, you'll have diplomacy and commodities to work with - something new from the original. Factions are going to come into play. I'm hoping there's a green alien group - I like angering green aliens (it's a childhood issue, don't ask). You'll also need to build and outfit your ship before exploring. Having the right ship in the right situation will be critical.
Matching gems in the previous title increased your mana, gold, experience or caused damage. There were four colored gems (mana) and one for each of the additional properties. The same basic principle applies here with a few more elements to make it interesting. This go around we have:
The general idea is to make matches that build up your weapons, CPU, etc. until you acquire the necessary power for an attack, counter measures or simply to keep your shields charged. Your ship will be unlike the ship you're battling against - find the chink in their armor and you're golden.
Tim wouldn't actually let us play. Instead, he pulled up the game, declaring that he would, of course, lose. Daniel from Digital Entertainment News and I kibitzed for a good 15 minutes - all the way to victory. Silly developers. It was all we could do to sit on our hands and not rip the controller from his hands. He would only tell us that the game is due to launch simultaneously on Wii, DS, PC and XBLA in the fall and that downloadable content is still under consideration. The grumbles heard from the press were palpable. *wants her puzzle quest now*
My children both play games so I often play them first, getting to know exactly how something may effect my sensitive and easily stimulated older child vs. my stoic and imperturbable younger.
I like games for games; for the pure enjoyment of them and believe that no game is wholly bad, though some are real stinkers.
I also have the dexterity of a camel in mittens so find playing FPSs difficult (and I also don't like the gore) and RTSs at times can stump me. I just can't seem to move quickly enough to keep up with them. Some of my favorite games are arcade games and I'll spend 3-5 years on the same 5-6 levels because I just never get any better. But, I have fun.