“PopCap and and Square Enix team up to create the successor to Bejeweled.”
Successor to Bejeweled, you say? Very much so. Gyromancer is collaboration between PopCap Games and Square Enix, and is admittedly a fairly unique experience, combining the successful puzzle formula of Bejeweled with interesting RPG mechanics. Can PopCap’s Bejeweled formula really mesh well with the RPG obsessed Square Enix? Well, I’ll tell you.
The game opens in the typical epic and flashy manner that all Square Enix RPGs do, though this really is a puzzle game at heart. This can easily be forgotten when you click the new game option and are immediately thrust into a story starring a young mage named Rivel who sets out to capture a man named Quraist Kingsley after he assassinates a member of the royal family.
After you are treated to a few story sequences, you get to play through a tutorial level with Rivel. Each level is essentially a series of paths on the screen which lead to treasure chests, monsters, and other such things. The player moves Rivel by clicking along the dotted path, telling the hero where to go. Upon encountering a monster, the game transitions to the battle screen which looks like a cross between Bejeweled and Puzzle Quest. Like in Bejeweled Twist, the player can only move blocks by rotating them in a clockwise direction. The objective is still to make lines of four identical blocks, which increases your attack gauge. By filling up your attack gauge, you can unleash damaging attacks upon your opponent, which depletes their hit points. You will actually conduct these “battles” with self-selected monsters which each have an affinity towards certain coloured blocks. For example, the firebreathing wyrm monster that you can use likes red blocks. If you destroy more red blocks in your combinations, your gauge bars will fill up faster, which puts a special gem into the playing field which, when destroyed, unleashes the attacks specific to whatever monster you are using.
The opponent has their own attacks as well. Each time the player rotates a group of blocks, the opponent’s own gauge bars will fill up slightly. When their bars are full, their own special gems will be deployed. If the player does not destroy these within a set number of turns, then they will be attacked and lose their own hit points. Obviously the point of each “battle” is to create as many beneficial combinations as possible so that you can attack the enemy frequently, thus overpowering them and defeating them.
You will want to win each battle quickly, since there are many monsters in each stage. Luckily, you are allowed to enter each stage with three monsters. If one perishes, it simply has to sit out for the rest of the stage. If you lose all three monsters, then you are removed from the stage after incurring a slight penalty and are then free to try again. Each stage typically ends with a boss fight, followed by a cutscene which progresses the story which, unfortunately, isn’t very gripping or exciting.
The artwork in the game is quite nice to look at, and I am under the impression that Square Enix probably handled most of the artwork. While the stages never look terribly interesting, battle sequences are the opposite. Monster portraits look spectacular and very threatening, and the animations caused by gems being swapped and special attacks being performed are quite good too. Character artwork is also very nice looking and is certainly above average.
The game’s music was written by Tsuyoshi Sekito, who has been involved in several Square-Enix games over the years. The music is actually very good, and sounds like it came straight out of a console RPG from Japan. Many of the tracks sound like they drew inspiration from games such as Final Fantasy Tactics, or perhaps Final Fantasy XII. Since the composer has worked on the Final Fantasy series, this isn’t terribly surprising. Overall, it makes for a wonderful soundtrack to listen to while playing what is essentially a puzzle game on steroids.
Fans of Bejeweled, Puzzle Quest, or Square-Enix games should find an ample amount to enjoy in this game, as it masterfully combines two genres, resulting in a very fun and interesting collaboration project. For a much cheaper price than commercial games, you can’t go wrong.