When it was announced that the masters of casual addictive games, PopCap, and Square Enix were collaborating on a game, folks were stunned and excited. The game that was born of that collaboration is Gyromancer, a very Square Enix influenced take on the puzzle genre using the Bejeweled Twist engine.
Gyromancer is not a fully fleshed out gaming experience, there are no CG cutscenes or dynamic voice work, instead static images with text introduce us to the story. The story is relatively simple and centers around a mage named Rivel Arday tracking down a group of villains called the Temperence. Arday is legendary, and is both feared and respected by his enemies. As he pursues them through the forest in which the game is set he encounters creatures he must battle.
At this point, the main gameplay starts. As you explore you move over a fairly simple map that has stationary and roaming monsters as well as obstacles, treasures, and new monsters you can summon. When you are hit by or run into a monster the screen changes to the Bejeweled Twist variant. You are able to choose a creature to battle for you that has an element attached. Opposing elements give strengths and weaknesses to attacks and a bit of strategy is needed to decide what creatures you should stack and use in battle.
The core gameplay mechanic, as noted, is Bejeweled Twist in all it's addictive glory. You twist crystals clockwise to make patterns of at least three of the same colour. The game is tweaked by the nature of the enemies and your powers being charged as you complete colored lines. When you achieve a full bar in a power it automatically adds a trap on the board in a random location, you then need to complete a set with the trap and then damage is dealt to your opponent.
When the enemy triggers a trap, it counts down with each twist of the jewels, if the counter hits zero it is triggered, damaging you. There are also sequences that add health regeneration or allow for constant damage to the opponents. This gameplay is good, fast, and addictive, but in true Square Enix mechanics there is a twist for lack of a better word. Part way through the game a mechanic that punishes twists that don't complete a set is introduced. This slows down gameplay hugely until you are a high enough level that you storm through your enemies in fewer moves.
With the idle twists (twists that don't result in a complete set) introduced, you need to methodically choose your twists and if the enemy sends a trap you are forced to ignore it or chance idle twists to get rid of the trapped crystal. If you twist without clearing a set, you speed up any traps and add power to your opponent. This makes clearing a level against an opponent whose power is close to your own very hard and nearly impossible if they are more then a few levels higher than you.
I have to wonder about this implementation and how it was tested. Did the team test this enough and determine it was actually enjoyable? This mechanic alone made me grind my teeth as I played through the game. Forget the miniscule RPG elements, forget the minimal graphics, it is this punishment mechanic that makes this a game that at times is frustrating to play. It pulls the normally fast system in Bejeweled Twist to a slow process that took a great deal of time per match and the maps were getting bigger and bigger to navigate.
The idea of the game is a great one: combine the ideas and concepts of an RPG great with a proven puzzle game like Bejeweled Twist. The core game is minimal and addictive, but the grind inducing scenarios and matches make this an average game and not the great successor to Puzzle Quest we were hoping for.
Gyromancer is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Blood and Mild Fantasy Violence. This game can also be found on: PC