Mines also come in four different strengths (one, thee, five and ten). The amount of damage dealt to your enemy is the aggregate of the values included in the chain. This is a good decision that helps add nuance to the offensive aspect of the game, although it's also now far easier to go from a win to a loss in moments.
Battles are an important part of gameplay as you fight space pirates and vie for control of a particular area of the solar system. However, a great deal of your time will be spent in other, non-combat minigame scenarios.
The galaxy's legion asteroids can be mined for resources, which can then be sold at space stations around the galaxy. The mining mini-game, like Puzzle Quest's item forge system, requires you to match a quota of specific gems. The solar system boats its own diverse economy so, if you want to get the best prices for your new cargo you'll need you travel to (and haggle with) those space stations that are offering the highest trade prices for a particular resource.
Mined cargo can also be used to build items and entire new ships if you have the relevant team member and plans. This economical underbelly to your quest adds both depth and breadth to the experience.
The character classes of the original Puzzle Quest are gone, replaced by the different ships your character can use. The shift, while at first looking like a simplification, soon reveals itself to be worthwhile. You can have up to three ships in your fleet at any one time, and their design changes the way the game plays out: a fast ship will help you speed past attackers in a hostile part of the galaxy, a slower, larger ship will offer lots of equipment slots for customisation.
Equipment replaces Puzzle Quest's magic system although it works in an identical way, granting various offensive and defensive abilities during battle. For example, the Bola Mines item doubles the number of mines on the board while Shield Matrix adds a +5 to your shield total. Choosing the appropriate ship for a battle is important and adds a decent high-level element of strategy to the game.
Galactrix is a huge game constructed from various discrete areas. On the galaxy map each star system is represented as a node and there are well over 50 of them to explore. They are connected by way of LeapGates, and each contains eight or nine planets and asteroids to explore.
As such, unlocking the full run of the galaxy will take tens of hours. Unfortunately you can only access nodes whose LeapGates you've ‘hacked', another mini-game that requires you to clear a board within a strict time limit. This minigame fast grows tedious and, as a literal barrier to exploration, is one of the game's most enduring irritations.
Whether you feel as though Galactrix is a small step or a giant leap on from Puzzle Quest depends on a vast array of factors: whether you prefer the space setting, the new emphasis on economy, the focus shift away from battles to a more diverse range of non-combative tasks and, of course, the deeper but less accessible core gem-matching game. But for us, the result is a dilution, not a distillation of Puzzle Quest's relentlessly compelling formula. It's a game that drives the franchise too deep into niche territory, where it loses sight of the elegance and simplicity which turned the match-three genre into an everyman phenomenon.
The version reviewed was the XBLA code. PC and DS are available from the 13th of March, with PSN and XBLA to follow.
Will you support Eurogamer?
We want to make Eurogamer better, and that means better for our readers - not for algorithms. You can help! Become a supporter of Eurogamer and you can view the site completely ad-free, as well as gaining exclusive access to articles, podcasts and conversations that will bring you closer to the team, the stories, and the games we all love. Subscriptions start at £3.99 / $4.99 per month.