Developer: Alawar Entertainment | Released: 2013 | Genre: Puzzle, Match-3
A few days ago I took a look at my backlog and decided I wanted to try out a short and mediocre game for my blog post series about short sessions. Let’s see. A match-3 puzzle game that looks like a mobile port? That ought to do, I thought, and installed the game. This will be over with real fast.
5 hours later I was still playing it.
And the next day I completed its story mode, taking up a total of 9½ hours.
After completing it, I bought it for my iPhone too.
This is probably the best match-3 puzzle game I have played, and I really loved Bejeweled Twist too back in the day. Nevertheless, this one overshadowed it. And the peculiar thing is, the full screen mode didn’t even work in Windows. I had to play it in a window with the desktop still visible around it, but I still loved it!
It was a combination of a casual mode that allowed me to continue the story mode without ever hitting game over, and a range of bonus and totem powers that felt fun and engaging. Bejeweled Twist had bombs and they easily ended the game, but not this one. It could go on forever. I really liked that.
Also, it had a shop where powers could be bought for coins and upgraded, but there was not a shred of in-app purchases for real money. It was all earned by completing the sessions as fast as possible. There were three countdown bars in story mode – gold, silver and bronze. Gold gave the most coins.
There were two lines of powers that could be bought in steps of four upgrades each, unlocked as the levels flew by. The first line was about totems, and there were a color for each type of token dropped in the grid. Each totem popped up at the ready in the left side when the first three tokens of its color were matched, and if I managed to match another three tokens of the same color, it released its power.
This was ingenious as it was often easy to concentrate on a certain color.
Totem powers could be throwing bombs or lightening in the grid, increasing the countdown time, adding extra bonuses, etc. I found the red and blue to be good, while the white one merely replaced the colors of certain tokens. This was sometimes more of a disservice than a help.
The bonus line allowed tokens to emerge in the grid. The dynamite was of course excellent. The classic bonus token for clearing rows and columns was really powerful when fully upgraded. There were many other bonus tokens that were equally useful.
To spice things up, the levels weren’t always about gathering a target amount of points. Sometimes I had to eliminate frogs that jumped on the tokens, lead water to a flower, thaw frozen tokens, find treasures, etc.
The thing that made the game that much more engaging than all the rest was how epic the going could easily get. Before long it was blasting and bombing all over the place, and if I kept it up by matching tokens before they fell down into the void beneath them, I could sometimes keep it up for a long time.
Extras that would have had a price in other games were free to use in this one. For example, I could click shuffle with just a very small cooldown to rearrange the grid without taking a hit to points or time, and it was often useful for strategically achieving the second match of the same color. Likewise, a helping arrow for making a match was always somewhere to be seen in the grid. At first I thought it was annoying and random, but sometimes it was great when everything was exploding and it was hard to see.
So, was the game perfect? Not entirely. There were at least one nitpick to be had after a while. As the levels progress in story mode, the demands for points in the standard levels increase, and it becomes virtually impossible to reach within the three countdowns. When the final bronze countdown is up, the game just displays an infinity symbol there, and that means you get no rewards and no coins.
Luckily, some of the other game modes still made it possible – especially the fire and water levels.
One thing that surprised me was that the end of the story mode had a boss level. A baddie spewing cold breath to freeze a god, while I was trying to thaw the god by matching tokens fast. I’m not sure if that one had a game over – I made it in the first attempt.
And I still have to check out the quest and puzzle game modes too.