Puzzle Quest: Galactrix: Downloadablosity

We linked to the online demo before, because we’re all about the linking. But that was just a single battle against a bloke who thrashed everyone, it seems. Now there’s a proper PC game demo out which allows you to play the first five (Count ’em!) character levels and generally explore its puzzle-game cosmos. Impresions follow…

First, you have to choose what your character looks like. Which, because it isn’t actually a game-influencing choice, is the most important thing to take some screenshots of…

This one looks a lot like Neve Campbell.

Meanwhile, this one looks like the non-threatening punk girl who John Walker would pine over.

There’s also two blokes, but I’m told that pictures of girls in internet posts will lead to more hits, so I didn’t bother grabbing them. Maybe I’ll save it up for a Who Does Leigh Alexander Fancy In Puzzle Quest Galactrix post down the line.

Anyway, I went for the non-threatening girl – in the game, only in the game – and started to have a nose around. Puzzle Quest veterans may have raised an eyebrow at the lack of a real character-select screen, in terms of selecting a class with its own powers. But in a move which will please Jim, its character development rather than based on some kind of class-based system is based upon purchasing space-ships, crafting better weapon skills and (er) mining.

(Well, there’s a level-system in there too, with you spending skill-points across four classes – Gunnery, Engineer, Science and Pilot (Being Red, Green, Yellow and Blue power-ups respectively), but the actual skills are gained during play).

Its basic structure is very Puzzle Quest, but ends up feeling more like Space Rangers 2 due to you flying around the solar systems and then leaping on a higher level map between them. Also, cute little vapour trails. The plot is agreeably ludicrously melodramatic – essentially 2000AD’s Nemesis the Warlock with added self-awareness. And someone saying stuff about fire and destruction in a single voice. Hmm.

While the demo cuts off before you’ve really gained enough specialist equipment to reallty see the battle game at its best (i.e. Have special abilities you’re trying to optimise), it does show the alternative games. They actually seem more central this time than last. For Example, the hacking subgame is used to unlock warpgates, so allowing you to travel to new sections – which you’ll end up doing every time you go anywhere new. It’s also the least interesting riff. More cute are the mining and crafting ones. I suspect mining will end up being a side-line for added resources (in it, you have special hexes you have to annihilate a certain number of) but the crafting (as it’s the main source of new powers) will be all over the place. It’s actually got a neat repeating-disappearing-hex thing, where you have to make a line disappear, creating a new hex type, and then line up the newly-created hex-types to harvest them.

It’s actually far more promising than I initially thought from the online demo. While Puzzle Quest was a chimera of RPG and puzzle game tropes, this actually does feel more like a cross between something like Freelancer or Space Rangers 2 and the puzzle game. It’s the same thing, only not. The biggest worry remains the actual hexagonal grid itself, which I still haven’t mastered and – as such – feels more random than last time. Still: looking forward to this now.


  1. danielcardigan says:

    Hated the hex grid from the online demo. Which is a shame cos I played PQ to death.

  2. TwistyMcNoggins says:

    I just hated Puzzle Quest full stop.

    I think I must have tried re-playing it about 4 times now on my DS, but every time I end up fighting a level 2 rat it always plays like this:

    I spend half an hour deciding to make my first move, I get three in a row. The computer takes his go and then OHMYGODABILLIONINAROW!!!!!!! As coloured gems come flying in from off screen which are impossible to predict, chaining together in ways which I didn’t know were even possible and then all of a sudden, those attack gems which I thought were miles away from each other now sit in a line of five and I’m getting the smackdown laid upon-eth me.

    It’s silly as I adore Bejewelled for exactly that reason. But when something that’s supposed to be a joyful experience (Flashing lights! Pretty colours! Smashing gems!) is actually kicking you in the nut repeatedly and unfairly, then I see no reason to persevere. The game may get better as you level up and gain those abilities but be damned if I care.

  3. Dan Lawrence says:

    Sounds like you suck at Puzzle quest :)

    I’d never played Bejeweled before Puzzle Quest but even I managed to best the mighty level 2 rats. Its a puzzle game with a luck element, sometimes you will lose but it shouldn’t be most of the time unless you aren’t that good at it.

    For me, the main issue with PQ is the sheer number of repetitive games of Bejeweled to play to get anywhere, I think I’d prefer fewer more intense puzzles (maybe varied types of puzzles!) in this type of hybrid game. I’m currently having a similar endurance problem with King’s Bounty’s hex battles.

  4. Pemptus says:

    Being a fan of the original PQ I didn’t like this demo much. The whole thing feels overly complicated and I don’t feel I have enough control over new the hexagonal board. It made me come back to the old PQ though – just started a warrior. \o/
    …Anyone know any worthwhile PQ mods?

  5. Markoff Chaney says:

    I mirror the comment that this demo was more enjoyable than the flash online affair. I am seriously put off by the lack of classes (now instead of 4 uber perfect builds (class based, naturally) there can/will be only one?) but I generally like all the other changes/improvements, but I’ve only been Level 5 twice. I chose to take both ladies to end-demo.

    I also think it gives a much better feel to the game than the flash demo. Sometimes one sentence can make all the difference in one’s understanding of the game (read: i’m an idiot) and I did find it nice and almost beyond thought like a good time waster can be.

    Finally, the DS version of Puzzle Quest the First is odd. You can turn it off and back on again and the first battle field will always be the same. Exploit this knowledge to your advantage. I mean, Mr. McNoggins, just imagine how much damage you can do if you force the computer to pick that 3 in a row you usually pick while keeping that OHMYGODABILLIONINAROW!!!!!!! combo for yourself. It verges on being an exploit, but it’s there. If you want a real exploit, fight Bane. He cheats…

  6. Lollerskater says:

    Playing this demo on a work PC I can only say: MAN IT IS SLOW! I’m willing to bet the culprit is the fancy schmancy new 3D background, which is a shame as I don’t think it’s necessary to enjoy the game play. Any way to turn it off?

    But I’ll give it another go at home most definitely.

    NOTE: The hacking aspect seems quite risky. As I had completed the hacking sequence I initiated a combo so big it went on for seconds, but the timer didn’t stop! I have yet to find out whether it will register a situation like this as a failed hacking attempt, all due to the length of the combo and despite having actually finished the sequence.

  7. Kieron Gillen says:

    I think it may be okay – I made a move right on zero which got the final combo, which registered.


  8. cyrenic says:

    The thing I miss the most is the flavor from the original puzzle quest. Riding around on a giant rat was more compelling to me than buying a new spaceship.

    I, too, was getting a freelancer vibe from the demo. Mostly because of the way item selling works.

  9. Calabi says:

    As long as Khaos wins I’ll be happy. Credo!!

  10. user@example.com says:

    Wait. Nemesis the Warlock?

    Puzzle Quest was good, but I wasn’t going to buy this. Nemesisish, though? Why are you making me desperately want to buy it, I have other things I need to spend money on. :(

  11. Lucas says:

    I really like the basic hex grid mechanics, but the presentation issues in the download demo really put me off.

    The nauseating “vomit comet” spinning planet background, the irritating blinky button highlight, the “ship follows your cursor” behavior as though you were pressing with a DS stylus, and the “standing around talking” character portraits that show up even when you’re on the space map.

    Hopefully it will be a good fit for the impending DS release, but as a PC demo, it was rather awful.

  12. Morph says:

    Ok, I’m getting a bit more excited now. I’ve played Puzzle Quest so much I dream about it and start swapping around objects in real life.

    Maybe I shouldn’t play this.

  13. Kieron Gillen says:

    Lucas: Did you play the original Puzzle Quest, as a matter of interest?


  14. groovychainsaw says:

    I thought it was very good, having completed the original puzzle quest. I agree wit hthe bit about the hex thing being hard to get your head around though – It seems much harder to spot patterns and predict where things are going to go, making it seem more random.

    I continue to prefer the ‘battle’ idea over bejeweled. Bejeweled could always kill you at any point by just not dorpping in a combination. I hate games where you can lose through no fault of your own. And whilst in puzzle quest (and presumably this) you could get unlucky against the computer, you can also get lucky yourself (im sure its about 50:50, but people remember the computer as being ‘unfair’ and themselves as ‘skilled’ so weight the computer’s chances as more frequent, but thats another story).

    You CAN play defensively if you don’t want the computer to get lucky, make it so whatever drops in next can’t land next to bombs etc., prevent them access to certain colours so they can’t trigger spells which makes it 10x more interesting than most other block puzzlers. But i still have trouble with hexes. I’m sure I’ll get it though, having completed all 30+ hours of the original puzzle quest its a no-brainer for me really.
    (Sorry about the essay guys ;-)

  15. Erlam says:

    “The computer takes his go and then OHMYGODABILLIONINAROW!!!!!!! As coloured gems come flying in from off screen which are impossible to predict, chaining together in ways which I didn’t know were even possible and then all of a sudden, those attack gems which I thought were miles away from each other now sit in a line of five and I’m getting the smackdown laid upon-eth me.”

    This is almost exactly what happened to me when I played Galactrix. In the first fight I won with 1 health left, because the computer did FIFTY DAMAGE to me in a single turn. I actually called my friend over while it was happening, he saw, and said “I guess they left that in from Puzzle Quest.”

    Basically, I wont be buying it, because I don’t need the aggravation of single-turn losses to psychic computers.

  16. Erlam says:

    One last thing:

    “I think it may be okay – I made a move right on zero which got the final combo, which registered.”

    I got the second last thing needed for hacking, which caused a combo, which lasted for 7 seconds — making me lose.

    So yes, you can lose by causing a combo.

  17. bansama says:

    Oh, must try this demo tomorrow. I originally got Puzzlequest on the DS and as someone above posted, the game was full of bugs, the most notable being that the first board was always the same. It all wnt down hill after that with random graphic glitches and out right crashes. The PC version was much better, but I often had the feeling that the AI liked to cheat, although not as much as in the DS version. It’ll be nice to see how the AI fairs in this one.

  18. Funky Badger says:

    Hmm, seems odd that the PQ AI cheats more against the weaker, moanier players…

  19. CdrJameson says:

    Played it!

    Man, you’d better like that hex game, as you’re going to get half-a-dozen barely different flavours of it. Luckily it’s in the compelling zone, albeit only just.

    That it doesn’t seem to matter if you lose just chips it back out again, though. You can lose a fight one time, and win easily on the retry using the same tactics. Too random to be satisfying.

  20. mkreku says:

    Does anyone remember Nemesis the Warlock on the Commodore 64? In one screen you had to build a ‘ladder’ using the bodies of killed enemies.. and the bodies weren’t movable from the spot where they died so you really had to time your kills right. Now that’s a puzzle game!!

  21. bansama says:

    Hmm, seems odd that the PQ AI cheats more against the weaker, moanier players…

    Well, I’m not going to agree with that seeing as I was fully capable of completing the game. But I will state that the AI in the DS version is definitely more challenging than that in the PC version. The developers apparently blamed that fact on the team handling the port…

  22. UncleSmoothie says:

    Good god I was hoping to get some work done tonight.

  23. UncleSmoothie says:

    Superb demo. I really, really doubt that the AI cheats in the way that some of you think it does. Sometimes the AI gets a lucky cascade, just like you do.

  24. Evil Timmy says:

    Really liked this demo, and as the first had me hooked for a ton of oh-just-five-minutes sessions that turned into hours, I can expect all my small slices of free time to be occupied again.

    And after a slight learning curve, I really like the hex tile idea. It actually gives you more control, not less. All you have to remember is that whichever way you move the tile you clicked on, that’s the way stuff is going to fall. This gives you at least two directions of choice for every move. And while the AI still seems to have a bit of that crazy luck, I think it’s also more balanced than in PQ; I’ve had a few supernovas myself in four lv5 runs and one battle that took two turns (vs a 53 health/20 shield opponent).

  25. Jochen Scheisse says:

    Only looked at the article because there was a Dinosaur threatening a girl in the first pic. That probably means I need to get laid.

  26. Lucas says:

    Kieron: I maxed out the original PQ demo and never picked up the final game (iirc, the PC release was 6 months late). The generic fantasy story soup didn’t help, and I say that as someone now consumed playing King’s Bounty. Galactrix is more interesting to me, both for the hex grid and scifi setting (generic story aside). I don’t mind lo-fi productions if they really play well, but I’m also not really in the casual audience, so odds are I won’t buy this either, and it’s been on my Amazon wishlist since July!

  27. Dave says:

    I liked the original Puzzle Quest, and really could not stand Galactrix. The hex grid is just too weird, the lack of clock stoppage when getting massive combos while hacking just feels utterly unfair, and the flavor is just not right. Frickin’ space dinosaur pirates.

  28. Arathain says:

    Ah, this’ll be great. Enjoyed the demo lots.

    You know, one of the things that impressed me about the original was the script. The plot was deliberately generic fantasy, but your character was agreeably sceptical, and tended to say the sorts of things I would have said in that situation.

  29. Lollerskater says:

    Pssst, Puzzle Quest: Galactrix released on Steam. Worldwide. Now.

    link to store.steampowered.com

  30. Stromko says:

    Worst game I’ve ever bought on Steam, by far. I played the thing for about 3 hours, then I couldn’t stand the tedium anymore. Specifically, the abilities, gear, and characters aren’t as interesting in terms of how they matter / what they do as they were in the first Puzzle Quest.

    Though the series got even worse than this with Puzzle Quest: Kingdoms. At least the demo was awful enough to convince me to resolutely not buy it, so that’s a plus. :)