When I heard that a space opera Puzzle Quest was in the works, I got psyched–sci fi is much more up my alley than fantasy.

Humans have reached for the stars, with four mega corporations leading the charge. A certain corporation, however, is conducting shady experiments, and one of these threatens the very future of humanity itself! So the player character, a young pilot, is suddenly thrust into finding out more about these experiments and figuring out how to save the day. Along the way you’ll build your own fleet of space ships, travel the stars, and make friends (or enemies) with 13 different alien factions.

Galactrix keeps the same casual puzzle/RPG mix that made the first game so addicting, but tweaks it with a hexagonal that refreshes from one of six different directions (instead of just dropping new tiles down from the top of the screen) depending on which direction you move a token to match three and clear. In other words, the hardcore people who play this game like Chess will have even more to think about, whereas the casual color-matches can just zone out and do their thing.

Speaking of colors…

red – weapons

yellow – engine

green – CPU

These three are the ones you will need to use special powers, which become available as you equip new items to your ship.

blue – shields. If you run out of shields your enemy can directly attack your HP, so you’ll want to match some of these once in a while.

bombs – They have numbers from 1-10. Match three to rack up damage to your enemies shields or health.

purple – psionic points. These powers are used to avoid unwanted battles. For example, one makes it so you can sneak past frigate-class ships.

white – intel. Match these to gain intel you can use to upgrade your pilot and ship skills.

Four of a kind was too easy to get on the new hexagonal board, so only 5 of a kind will get you an extra turn.

In addition to taking missions and getting rumors at stations, you can go to asteroids to play a mining mini-game or trade cargo with friendly factions–hostile factions will actually steal your cargo sometimes, if you lose a puzzle duel. Crew members (who give you special abilities or buffs, like in the original game) include a robot and some kind of rodent person.

It’s easy to imagine Puzzle Quest: Galactrix as just Challenge of the Warlords with a new paint job, but it’s actually a pretty different game with a lot of new elements. Coming for DS (with ad hoc multiplayer), XBLA, and PC (both with online multiplayer plus leaderboards) in Q1 of ’09.