D3 Publisher's big surprise at GDC this year was the newly rebranded Puzzle Quest: Galactrix, the sci-fi spiritual sequel to the hit Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. We weren't able to play the game -- we were forced to sit tantalizingly close as we watched the PC version of the game (also coming to DS and Xbox Live Arcade) being demonstrated. The new game explores the question "What if people didn't have souls?" in the medium of match-three puzzle games. No, we don't know what that means either.
Enjoy our gallery of spaceship concept art, screenshots, and this thing, and continue past the break for what gameplay details we could glean from the demo.
Even more obvious than the difference in setting -- which features a power struggle between corporations in space! -- is the difference in gameplay. The familiar Tetris/Bejeweled-like well seen in original screens of Galactrix has been replaced by a hexagon, filled with hexagonal gems. Along with this change in orientation come new gameplay systems. Now, depending on whether the match happens in space or on a planet, gravity has variable effects on the movement of pieces. If you're on a planet (and thus subject to that planet's gravity) new pieces will fall down to fill the void left by captured gems (done by matching three in a line, as usual). In space, the pieces will fall in the direction you moved the matched pieces. Winning a match involves matching numbered gems to do damage to the opponent's shield, and then to their ship. The sum of the numbers on these special gems correspond to the amount of damage done to the shields or ship.
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Much like Challenge of the Warlords, the color of captured gems has an effect on gameplay. Blue gems, for example, recharge your spaceship's shields, while white gems add to your "intel," which is a mysterious stat that affects information-gathering outside of puzzles. Red gems power your ship's weapons, yellow gems provide engine power, and green gems power up your ship's computer. We don't exactly know how these stats work in gameplay. D3 wasn't terribly forthcoming with details! Purple gems add to your "psi power," which is a mysterious power that has some kind of use in minigames.
The player will have the ability (again, details are unknown) to collect spaceship parts and customize the ship in various ways, along with an entire fleet of ships with different weapons. This may involve collecting large stocks of the three ship power gems, or it may be randomly-dropped items found after battles.
The PC and XBLA versions of the game will both have online play, but it is as yet undetermined what kind of online features the DS version will have. We're hoping for "tons."