Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Puzzling indeed

Above: The DS version does not look like this.

My review of Puzzle Quest: Galactrix is online now at There is a lot I don't understand about this game -- that much, at least, comes through in the article -- but with some distance I now think the bigger problem might be the shoddy execution of the Nintendo DS version. I think so partly because of Bill Harris's lauding of the PC version (see here and here), and also because I've played the downloadable PC demo and the web demo, which are both miles beyond the handheld version in presentation, smoothness, and playability. Should be said, too, that I played Challenge of the Warlords on PSP, which was executed well on a technical level, but had other issues.

The DS version, though, is ugly. It's hard to look at. The colors are washed out and the overall look is grainy. New gems don't slide smoothly onto the screen -- they pop into view. The touchscreen detection, as I mention in the review, is iffy. The audio is scratchy. It's just not a pleasant game to interact with. While I failed to engage the finer points of the RPG mechanics, that's only partly due to my well-documented idiocy in these matters. It's also because it's hard to get past such an off-putting surface.

Did I expect a graphical powerhouse from a Nintendo DS game? No. But I was taken aback when I first booted up Galactrix, and that feeling never went away.


Julian said...

That's a shame. I'm having fun with the PC version, despite intermittent crashes. DS should theoretically be the ideal platform for the game. I actually chose the PC version over the DS version because my wife has been hogging the DS lately, and it sounds like I lucked out. It's inexcusable to let interface issues break the game like this.

Gary A. Lucero said...

I can't play DS games at all partly for this reason (ugliness).

I didn't grow up on the NES and Sega -- my first gaming machines were Commodore computers -- so I'm used to good graphics.

I find the DS a system contrained in so many ways and it's not only uncomfortable to hold and play on but the graphics are ugly and the whole experience is clunky (for me).

I am not a Nintendo fan so I won't forgive it for anything. And I think my beef is with all portable systems, though the DS is the worst by far of all current gen portables.

Daniel Purvis said...

The Galactrix game, on any system, is simply not satisfying to play for reasons. These include:

A high degree of randomness in the way that puzzles appear on the page, which can lead to feelings of frustration and lack of control. Even if you understand how to influence the direction the pieces come in. This is direct contrast to Warlords where it was obvious how pieces would fall and it was easy to plan ahead. In addition, the computer always seemed to get a far more beneficial falling of the new pieces, in such a way that I could be dominating the enemy with over 150 HP and then somehow be brought down to zero in a turn or two.

Warlord was also satisfying to play by way of it's sound and visual effects which were loud, bombastic and made the game board shudder when you exploded multiple pieces. How much fun was it to see the combo words explode into play?

Galactrix doesn't have that feel. It's much more clinical and sobre. Moving pieces might be smooth but the sound effects and the lack of meaningful removal of the pieces just doesn't quite hit the spot.

The hacking system feels like a complete waste of time. Unlike in Warlords when every game led to the accumulation of new skills, gold or other beneficial rewards, the hacking system serves as nothing more than an artificial barrier that doesn't really need to be there.

My main issue is that unlike Warlords, Galatrix to me doesn't feel like it's testing my wits because the gameplay is so random.