The previous Puzzle Quest
game used the standard Bejeweled
-style gameboard as a way to simulate RPG fighting, crafting and training. For the most part, Puzzle Quest: Galactrix
is the same, except this game is space-based (instead of standard fantasy fare like the previous) and instead of dealing with a square-tile board, you will have to contend with 50 or so hexagonal tiles lined up in a circular shape. But the concept of replacing fights with a puzzle game still holds firm.
You play as a pilot straight from the academy (though he was top of his class). You are given a ship and you start off with some menial jobs like stopping pilots and delivering food. But you soon become immersed in an attempt to stop a plot dedicated to exterminating the human race. Of course, to do so, you will need the best ship, the most shields, and the best weapons, and that's where the RPG elements come in.
While you don't play as a ship, pretty much everything about your abilities to fight involves your ship. But throughout the game, you will get the ability to upgrade your ship (either through purchase or salvage and repair). These ships have various stats that include the number of slots for weapons or equipment as well as the amount of shields it can have and the number of what kinds of tiles it can hold as energy for the weapons. These tiles come in three flavors, weapons (red), engines (yellow) and science (green). Building up your ship's reserves of these tiles allows you to use the weapons and equipment you have on board. These can do everything from attack your opponent, to remove tiles from the board or change the colors of tiles on the board. For the most part, these moves are used to strategically collapse the board so that bombs will line up and deal damage to your enemy (like the skulls of Puzzle Quest), but they can also be used to increase your ship's shields or gain you more energy in a different color so you can use a different item.
The other tiles you will see on the battle screen include white and purple, which are your character's intel and psychic rating, respectively. Basically, these tiles act as your character's experience, so the only way you are going to level up (outside of the intel gained from simply completing quests) is to clear as many of these tiles as possible during a fight. If you do, then you will be able to increase various factors like the amount of shields, weapons, science and engine points you start off with in a battle.
But not everything in Galactrix is a fight where you are trying to destroy the opposing character. There are several other game types that will test your puzzle skills in a different manner. In order to craft objects, you have to combine red, green and yellow tiles to form components, and then line up like-components to get closer to actually making the device. When mining an asteroid, you are faced with a sparcely-populated board and your goal is to get as many of the requested materials before you run out of possible moves. These materials can range from polymers to alloys, technology, diamonds, gold, food (how you "mine" food, I'm not sure), minerals, contraband and several other tile-types. These materials are stored in your ship's cargo (which is sized different based on the ship itself) and is used for crafting equipment or selling for money so you can buy equipment.
But, the most frequent game mode, at least it seemed the most frequent, involved hacking the Leapgates (the devices that allow you to travel between systems). These are timed events that require you to clear out specific tiles in a specific order before the clock runs out. There are clock tiles that will grant you some precious extra seconds when you clear them, and while they don't afford you a lot of time, they are always helpful. These hacks are rated based on how many tiles you are supposed to get rid of in how much time, and most of them are ranked easy, but there are quite a few doozies out there. What I found most annoying about this mode is the fact that pausing the game doesn't actually stop the counter. Yup, that's right, if someone calls while you are trying to hack a Leapgate, then you either have to miss the call or fail at the attempt because the counter keeps ticking away no matter what.