By Louise Yang . December 1, 2009 . 2:11pm
Gyro, from modern Greek gyros, a circle, or to turn. This is the main mechanic behind Square Enix and Pop Cap’s RPG-slash-puzzle game. When the RPG giant joins forces with the casual games giant, their brain-child is part Pokemon, part Puzzle Quest, and all a force to be reckoned with.
Gyromancer has players taking on the role of Rivel who predictably lost his memories, must bring justice to the world, yadda yadda. In typical Square Enix fashion, the story is full of fantasy-inspired, hard to pronounce names, long winded dialogue, beautiful and detailed artwork, and a slightly boring story. The good news is most of the dialogue can be skipped if you’re not in the mood to sit through an epic novel.
Over Thanksgiving weekend, friends and relatives who saw me playing the game exclaimed, "Oh, it’s Bejeweled," which is sort of true in that both games have the match-three short term goal. Unlike Bejeweled, gems in Gyromancer can only be rotated in a clockwise, 2×2 square reticule, which the player controls. The direction can be switched with a mirror item, but most of the time, the gems are going clockwise.
One thing that tripped me up the first time I played Gyromancer is that although battles are against an opponent, the opponent doesn’t ever have direct control over the playing board. Players are the only ones who can move gems around. Each time the gems are rotated, the enemy’s energy meter builds up a fraction of a bar unless the movement of gems resulted in a special match-three.
Once the enemy’s bar fills up, dangerous counter gems appear on screen which count down with each move, much like the counter gems in Super Puzzle Fighter. If the gems aren’t eliminated before zero is reached, they explode depending on their designated pattern and deal damage to the player’s beast.
What’s this about beasts? Instead of pitting story characters against other story characters, Gyromancer has players collecting beasts to play against other beasts. Beasts have varying abilities, affinities, and weaknesses. Unfortunately, the affinity model doesn’t play that strong of a role in the outcome of a match other than some helpful stat boosts in the beginning of the game.
The main thing that affects the outcome of matches is choosing moves wisely. An idle turn, a rotation that doesn’t get rid of any gems, is costly because it builds up the enemy’s meter without building up the player’s. Later in the game, idle turns become deadly because they make counter gems tick down by 2 instead of 1. There’s also the risk/reward factor between trying to get rid of an enemy’s counter gem or trying to match your own ability gem to cause damage to the enemy.
With PopCap’s record of producing addictive games, it’s no wonder that Gyromancer is so difficult to put down. The maze-like dungeons are full of enemy encounters, one-way paths, treasures, beasts to collect, and mini-bosses. There’s definitely a "just one more battle" aspect to the game.
While the mechanics of the game are easy to grasp, it’s by no means without challenge. There are stones which can’t be moved or matched and thus must be dealt with through ability explosions. There are also locked gems which can’t be rotated, but can be moved. One complaint I have about the game is that sometimes, it’s hard to tell what shape and color an enemy’s counter gem is because the skull usually distorts the shape.
My next complaint is the level cap on all the beasts. The level cap renders most of the beasts I collected in the beginning of the game useless after a few hours of play.
Although more puzzle game than RPG, Gyromancer certainly has Square Enix’s stamp all over it from the character designs to the florid text in the story. Players craving more RPG mechanics may be disappointed by the lack of effect stats have on a beast, but if you come to the game with an appetite for matching colored gems, you’ll be quite happy with the game.