Puzzle Quest: Galactrix

Ask the average “hardcore” gamer what they think of a game like Bejeweled and you’ll often get a lengthy tirade on the evils of the bestselling puzzle game and the casual gaming boom it helped spawn. These kinds of mindless, over-simplified gem-matching games represent everything that’s wrong with today’s game industry, the argument goes. Instead of creating a compelling universe or crafting a tight set of deep, slowly unfolding rules, these games latch onto one simple mechanic (move a gem to create three in a row of one color) and wring it for all it’s worth — which usually is about 15 minutes of interesting gameplay. At their best, these gem-matching games could be called pointless diversions. At their worst, they’re pure mental masturbation: a single, nearly instinctive action, endlessly repeated, culminating in a violent explosion of sights and sounds that leaves you feeling oddly unsatisfied in the end.

I understand these arguments, and agree with large parts of them. What confuses me, then, is how these same arguments seem to fall by the wayside when hardcore gamers talk about Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords and its recent sequel Puzzle Quest: Galactrix, two games that dress up this same simple, tired gameplay with the thinnest patina of role-playing clich├ęs.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve succumbed to the seductive power of the gem-matching game before. I recently fostered an intense, month-long addiction to Bejeweled Twist, spending every free moment mesmerized by the game’s effortless, autopilot gameplay and bright, colorful explosions. But Puzzle Quest: Galactrix lacks many important elements that made Bejeweled Twist so compelling, namely: an effortless interface; excellent presentation; a smooth, quickly-progressing difficulty curve; and, most importantly, a frustration-free reward system that minimizes the role of luck.

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