Gyromancer has Cast its Spell…

Combat betrays Square Enix's love of big creatures, elemental affinities and particle effects.

Over the last year one game has been permanently downloaded on my Xbox’s tiny hard drive. A guaranteed option for that late night blast of gaming before bed, or to play for 15 minutes until a friend comes online. I discovered Gyromancer at an early stage whilst testing for Square Enix and somehow instantly knew that it would become a firm favourite of mine, despite the fact that I normally shy away from casual gem matching games like Bejewelled.

What Gyromancer seemed to do perfectly was fuse the talents of the two unlikely studios collaborating in its development: the tight, clever, simple gameplay mechanics of Pop Cap and the richly realised narrative and graphical context provided by Square Enix. Such a dream team of developers was certainly unusual, given that most major companies were viewing the jumped up social gaming companies as threats rather than allies, and I think that is what makes the game special. You can sense the unique contributions of the two companies beneath the surface, and in spite of everything it works well. Although I intended Gyromancer to simply be a filler game, there has been many a night that I’ve gone to sleep at past 2 A.M. with my alarm set at 7.30 A.M and gems still popping in my fevered dreams, just because I couldn’t resist that lure of one more match. Surely the best kind of games are those that appear to be minor, but end up consuming you whole?

Although Gyromancer's story isn't always up to scratch, it does have a certain charm to it.

My problem is that now Gyromancer has joined the small collection of 100% completed games, now that I’ve hunted Temperance down, become the lord of the forest, tracked down that last tricky challenge and slain the Scion at The four, where do I go for my puzzle RPG kick? I played the brilliant and innovative Clash of Heroes to death, and when I downloaded Puzzle Quest I was so underwhelmed I couldn’t even get through the demo. Maybe I’m being too quick to judge but next to the polish, originality and whimsical narration of Gyromancer and Clash of Heroes, Puzzle Quest seemed inane and soulless; a clichéd, badly rendered fantasy setting driven by an uninspired gem matching mechanic.

Clash of Heroes gameplay system is breathtakingly original.

I’m not saying that Gyromancer was a masterpiece of storytelling, to be sure the cutscenes consisting of character portraits making the most absurd revelations in stilted archaic speech was often infuriating, but it still somehow had a certain charm to it that was enough to drive you through the game. Clash of Heroes was much stronger on this front, with a surprisingly imaginative structure and a charming tale of five friends united in their goal but divided in their motives as they attempted to thwart a demon invasion. The best thing about Clash of Heroes was how it seemed to be five stories in one and how the gameplay would often extend from the narrative, cleverly altering the rules of the fight to represent a certain objective. I hope we haven’t see the last of the puzzle RPG genre, as I believe it makes for the perfect break from the larger blockbuster games, whilst still maintaining enough complexity of narrative and gameplay to be great games in their own right.

Both games take place on interesting map screens, weaving a sense of purpose between the encounters.





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