Version tested: Xbox 360
Gyromancer is PopCap does Puzzle Quest. If reading that sentence doesn't strike fear into your heart, then it probably brings an involuntary twitch to your left eyelid and an unplanned release of saliva. The developer's talent for Pavlovian player-slavery, exhibited in some of the world's most appallingly moreish casual and puzzle games - Bejeweled, Peggle and Plants vs. Zombies, to name just three - has been married with a levelling, dungeon-crawling, monster-hunting, card-collecting RPG. This sort of thing ought to be illegal.
However, although Gyromancer exhibits all of PopCap's famous fine-tuned perfectionism, don't expect this download title to look or sound like a PopCap game. That's because it's an unlikely collaboration with the Japanese RPG kings at Square Enix, who have contributed the RPG framework, some beautiful static artwork depicting sexy mages and strange monsters, cheesy MIDI music, a nonsensical but strangely beguiling storyline in gauche fantasy-speak, some familiar names and some unmistakably bright, stinging sound effects. Gyromancer isn't just Puzzle Quest, it's Final Fantasy too. Oh, and Pokemon. And maybe even a little bit of Demon's Souls.
It is one game over and above all these others, though, and that game is Bejeweled Twist, PopCap's, well, twist on its world-conquering gem-matching game which it released last year. The colours and shapes of the jewels are the same, and the basic mechanics are identical - a blend between Bejeweled's straightforward match-three and the group rotation of Alexey Pajitnov's classic Hexic.
You rotate four gems once, clockwise, in an attempt to match a row of three or more - and unlike both Hexic and Bejeweled, moves with no matches, here called "idle twists", are allowed. The roulette round which drove Ellie crazy this time last year is, happily, nowhere to be seen. Unlike Puzzle Quest, you're not taking turns with the computer to make moves; although each bout of gem-swapping is a battle against an opponent, you're only ever really playing against yourself. That's Gyromancer's stroke of genius.
But let's explain the context first. By that I don't mean the story, which is endearing, largely unpronounceable rubbish. There is an enchanted wood, and a dashing mage called Rivel Arday (the most common player character), who is hunting some revolutionary scoundrels called Temperance led by a man called Qraist. A Peculiar Boy sometimes pops up and says things, and at one point the word "tamped" is used, which is nice.
The real context is the forest, and the beasts within it. The forest is a series of mazes, and the beasts are monsters roaming those mazes as enemies, or under your command as summons. You can take three beasts at a time into a maze, but collect many more by finding "Gyro codes" in the labyrinths. Every time you encounter an enemy beast, you select one of your three to fight it - paying careful attention to its gem colour affinity - and a round of puzzling begins.