There is an assumption in the world of video games that the realms of the hardcore and casual gamers do not overlap. Hardcore players tend toward games like Halo while casual players will lose hours playing Cake Mania, Bejeweled or Zuma.

There is an assumption in the world of video games that the realms of the hardcore and casual gamers do not overlap. Hardcore players tend toward games like Halo while casual players will lose hours playing Cake Mania, Bejeweled or Zuma.

The prevailing belief is that a Zuma player isn't interested in killing hordes of zombies in Left 4 Dead, or that the Call of Duty 4-obsessed have little interest in puzzle-type games since nothing explodes or shoots back. Occasionally, though, a game comes along that grabs both these audiences and becomes a smash hit.

Last year D3 Publisher struck gaming gold with their Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords, which asked players to match four or more gems on a Tetris-like board and included quite a few role-playing-game elements, like spells and special powers that could be triggered when the appropriate number of colored gems had been removed.

This year they've changed things up a bit by offering a sequel game featuring sci-fi trappings instead of fantasy ones. Puzzle Quest: Galactrix mixes the formula up and adds a lot more strategy to the game by shifting the game board from a Tetris-style series of columns to a hexagonal grid.

Galactrix also offers an appealing science-fiction storyline. Players travel from star system to star system uncovering a mystery and revealing the ultimate foe, who plans to take over the stellar alliance.

You'll create a character and "level" them through skirmishes against the game's AI opponents, or against friends on the gaming services, or via wireless play on the DS. Multiplayer against another player is always more satisfying, even if it's not as challenging.

Normally I'd claim otherwise, but I can't quite shake the feeling that the computer players in this game cheat, seemingly knowing what colors will shift onto the board next. (But maybe that's because I get frustrated to find I lose far more often to computer players than I do to real people, which seems odd to me.)

Puzzle Quest: Galactrix has all the marks of a good casual game - its gameplay is simple and addictive on the surface, but the RPG story, sci-fi elements and added layers of strategy make it a crossover title worth investigating for the hardcore crowd as well.

And the casual game price, not to mention demo versions available on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, make that process even easier.

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