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Review: Gyromancer

John Funk | 3 Dec 2009 13:00
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Gyromancer may be the only game I've played where I can pinpoint the exact moment that my opinion of it plummeted from "Eh, it's okay" to "I really, really hate this game," but I'm getting a bit ahead of myself here.

Initially, my feelings toward Gyromancer were pretty positive - it was a puzzle RPG hybrid in the vein of cult hit Puzzle Quest, featuring the RPG knowhow of Square-Enix and the puzzle brilliance of PopCap. Sure, the choice to use the less-intuitive Bejeweled Twist - where you rotate four gems at once to match three colors instead of just swapping two a la Bejeweled - seemed odd, and the story was as cliché fantasy as they came (and the presentation was incredibly phoned in, with simple text over static portraits and backgrounds), but I was willing to put up with it for a while.

In Gyromancer, the main character Rivel is a summoner, which means that instead of engaging in battle himself, he calls forth monsters to fight for him. Every monster type has a color affinity, and individual creatures will be strong against some colors and weak against others - and the whole "fighting and collecting monsters to put together a well-rounded team" felt a little bit like Pokemon. Selecting the monsters you're going to take with you before entering a level was a game in and of itself, and it was an entertaining bit of added depth.

The battles themselves are relatively simplistic, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Matching gems fills up the ability bars of both your monster and the opponent, and the ability is used automatically when full. Your own skills come into play as special glowing gems that have to be matched to be activated, and being able to use them as they come in or save them up for a big whopper of an attack is a nice (if minor) tactical choice. In comparison, enemy gems will activate automatically after a certain number of turns if not cleared in time.

Whatever algorithm determines which gems get transformed into the enemy's ability gems made it so that it's never impossible to get it out of the way in the allotted time frame, so that the player never runs into a moment of frustration at taking unavoidable damage. The presence of an enemy gem requires you to immediately react to it, giving battles in Gyromancer a smooth, back-and-forth flow to them. They weren't particularly deep or complex, but it was Bejeweling with a purpose (and a few improvements to make the Twist gameplay easier to grasp), and it was decent mindless fun in between boring dialogue penned by a scriptwriter with a fifth of Jack Daniels and an open copy of Lord of the Rings.

Then, the game introduced the Idle Twist penalty. Before, there was no direct consequence for making a move that didn't end up creating a match. Sure, it would fill up your opponents' bars but not your own and it would reset whatever chain you had going, but you could still do it to your heart's content in order to set up a devastating chain attack or to get your foe's ability gems out of the way. But this single mechanic - which penalized match-less twists with massive increases to your enemy's skill bars and taking off two turns on any enemy gems instead of one - ruined the dynamic of the game in one fell swoop.

Setting up combos became impractical, trying to quickly get rid of ability gems in half the time just flooded you with even more enemy ability gems, and the fun back-and-forth feel to battles all but vanished. Before, fights had been entertaining in a mindless sort of way; after they were just a pain to slog through.

Sorry, guys. I'll stick with Puzzle Quest for now.

Bottom Line: Not as mindlessly fun as Bejeweled or Twist, not as involved as Puzzle Quest, and you're certainly not playing it for the story. It's decently interesting until two or so hours in when the game springs a mechanic on you that completely destroys what had been enjoyable about it up until then, and doesn't really make you want to play any more.

Recommendation: Yeah, it's only $15, but that's $15 better spent on something else.

Score:

John Funk is still hoping for that Square-Enix/Bon Jovi crossover he envisioned back in October.

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