Gyromancer ReviewNeedle Gnat, I choose you!
Think back to the last time you found out that someone has been blatantly dishonest with you. It didn't feel good, did it? Well, I had the nasty feeling that the Gyromancer demo held back an important game mechanic until after I purchased the game. The lovechild of the addictively fun game makers at PopCap Games and the brilliant storywriters at Square Enix sounds like a peanut butter meets jelly moment in gaming history, but soon after learning how the game really works, the pair quickly burst my bubble.
Gyromancer is a beautiful variant of "Bejeweled Twist," a PopCap game where players move gems four at a time in a clockwise motion to match three or more in a row by color. The same rule applies to Gyromancer, but the overarching story adds a bit of excitement to get to the next puzzle/battle. You see, you take on the role of Rivel the umm… Magician? No- Beast Master? To go into dark, enchanted forests full of monsters to… eh…. Oh! You fight monsters using the three monsters you bring along with you as you battle your way to… Never, mind. It wasn't important anyway. The story is poorly told and when the story is the main focus of Gyromancer, it is presented with a pair of static drawings communicating with faint white text and silence. All of the game's characters refer to events that the audience doesn't know about and more than half of the time the "story" only applies to the current level, as in "Why Rivel is killing Centipedes in this section of the dark forest." The story is a complete mess, but at least it comes with some nice ambient music.
The goal of Gyromancer is to navigate a winding maze with the ultimate goal of finding the boss monster at the end of the lambrynth. Beat the boss and you unlock the next level in the "story" mode. Since we're not playing Gyromancer for the story, we may as well enjoy the combat! As you explore the maze, you will encounter all kinds of stunningly rendered monsters such as monster ants, giant beetles and killer spiders. Depending on the creature's element, you would need to choose a beast from your roster of three that has an advantage over it. For example, if I had to fight an Aqua Turtle that uses blue gems I would counter the shelled behemoth with my Green Arum (tree monster) that is powered by green gems. Once the battle starts, you are presented with a Bejeweled Twist styled playing field that you will use to match gems of your monster's color. Each matched set of gems helps to fill your beast's attack meters and once an attack bar is filled, an attack gem is placed upon the field. Match the attack gem and it will clear plenty of space on the board and slam the enemy monster for a large amount of damage. Once the rival monster's health reaches zero, you slay it and continue working your way towards the exit.
This active puzzle-combat works well in the demo as a tennis-like back and forth between your race to match your monster's gem colors and attack gems, while trying to destroy the enemy's attack gems that harm your brute after so many turns have passed. It's fun, fast and frantic to the point where I jumped to buy Gyromancer. Pokemon meets Bejeweled! How could that not suck? Well, after the third level, Gyromancer introduces a new rule that sticks through the remainder of the game: "Idle Twists." An Idle Twist is any move you make that does not result in gems being matched, which results in the harsh penalty of filling a large section of the bad monster's attack bars. This quickly becomes an issue since there is not always a matching move available on the board, or sometimes the only twist you can make that will result in a match are gems of the enemy monster's type! This quickly turned from a strategic fast-paced back-and-forth between you and the AI into a slow methodic slog as you carefully study the board to find any twist that won't result in your monster being butchered. Thanks for (not) telling me about this important game mechanic in the first-level demo, Square Enix!
I recently went back to try out Gyromancer after the long time I spent away fuming about the secretive savage punishments of "Idle Twists," and although I still feel that the demo is deceptive, as a whole it's not a bad game. If you've got the patience for bad stories, slow strategy games as well as an equal balance of luck and skill, Gyromancer is for you. I'm still impressed by the monster design, initial combat mechanics and atmospheric music, and I've forgiven Square Enix for the most misleading demo of all time, but the damage has been done. It's hard to get excited when my Needle Gnat puts down a Stone Gygas when it is out of sheer skin-of-my-teeth luck…
-Arnold B. Carreiro
Developed by Square Enix & PopCap Games
Published by Square Enix
ESRB: T for Teen
The Arnold B. Carreiro Rating System
A - Awesome! Why haven't you bought this yet? Go! GameStop doensn't close for another 2 hours!
B - Great game! It'll be something fun to play for a good while. It's better than most games, but shy of perfection for some reason. You should check it out!
C - Meh. It's not a BAD game, nor is it good. Enjoyment may be limited to a certain audience though. Perhaps some aspects of the title are great while others are bogged down by bad design/gameplay/etc.
D - Not too great... Too much of the game lacks polish to be appreciated to the general gaming public, but there might be enough here for someone to enjoy. Maybe...
F - A complete train wreck. Vampire Rain is the last "F" game I've ever played. The bargain bin is too good for an "F" game.