By Eric Pankoke on Sun, 01/03/2010
There are times when the best match 3 game is still simply a match 3 game. However, this type of game is starting to feel more and more the same from one iteration to the next. Thankfully, developers are still trying to find ways to marry this game play with other types of games. Some attempts are successful, while others are not. Thankfully, Puzzlegeddon from Handy Games is one such successful endeavor. It blends match 3 with “last man standing” warfare in a fun and creative way. All they need to do is throw in some multi-player and get rid of the pesky challenge mode (or reduce it to an option only), and this game could have it all.
Puzzlegeddon is about making matches and blowing away the other players. You can play a Quick Game or a Campaign. Campaign mode takes you through a series of planets, allowing you to unlock all the various game play modes for Quick Game, as well as giving you the opportunity to unlock new weapons and characters to play. Once you’ve unlocked a game mode in Campaign you can play it in the Quick Game option, and once you’ve unlocked a character you can use that character in either Campaign or Quick Game modes.
During the campaign you will have several different game types to play through. The main two are Time Attack and Survival. In Survival your goal is to be the last one alive. With Time Attack you get a certain number of minutes to score as many kills as you can. If you should happen to get killed in this mode you’ll have to play a challenge board to get back in the game. More on that mode later. You’ll also get to play Duel rounds, where it’s just you against one other character. The characters are tougher in this mode, but if you are victorious you’ll get to use that character as you progress through the campaign mode. Finally you get some rounds that are Challenge rounds. In this mode you have to make specific combinations of matches in order to pass. In a normal Challenge round you’ll get a certain number of moves and you’ll need to beat either 5, 10 or 15 challenges, depending on how far along in the campaign you are. If you have to play a challenge round to get back into a Time Attack game you’ll only have one challenge you need to beat.
The crux of all of these modes is the match 3 game. In Time Attack, Survival and Duel modes you’ll use the match 3 board to gather resources to power your weapons. There are 4 different weapon types, each fueled by a particular color of resource. As you make matches of 5 or more tiles of a certain color, your resource meter for that weapon type will start to fill up. When you have enough of a color to use a certain level of a weapon a star will glow above that weapon type’s resource gauge at the appropriate level. To activate a weapon you simply click on the appropriate resource gauge. Some weapons automatically do what they need to, and others require you to pick a target character. You basically start out with a simple missile, and as you play the campaign you’ll unlock upgrades to that missile as well as three other weapon types. One thing I don’t really care for about this whole system is that if you have enough resources to fire level 2 of a weapon, you have to use that level, even if you only want the effect that comes with using level 1 of that weapon. This will make more sense once you play the game, and it’s not a real big issue, but it’s especially annoying when it comes to using the weapon associated with the yellow resource.
In the Challenge mode there is no timer. You’re just restricted by the number of moves you can take to complete the challenge. In this mode you have tiles comprised of bats, skulls and other things that go bump in the night. A challenge might be something like “1 line and 1 combo”. A combo is making matches for two different tile types in the same move. A chain is making a match, and when the tiles clear and everything shifts down, making another match automatically because of the shift. A line is when you get 6 tiles of the same type horizontally or vertically, with no other tiles of that type involved in the match. The chain is the hardest type to set up in a premeditated fashion, but thankfully you can position tiles to your heart’s content, as nothing actually happens until you click a group to make a match. I like this mode, but only as an aside to the actual game. I really wish it didn’t appear in Campaign mode, as I find it slows down the action too much.
Before each non-challenge level in Campaign mode you can select any character that you’ve unlocked up to that point. Each character has a certain something they do that’s supposed to be better than all the other characters. I’ve tried each character as I’ve unlocked them, and to be perfectly honest I don’t see too much of a difference in game play at this point, regardless of which character I select. Maybe there’s something subtle I’m missing or I’m just not very good at the game, but when I’m given choices like this I always like to be able to see a discernable difference in those choices.
I really like the visuals in Puzzlegeddon. There’s nothing overly flashy, but there are a bunch of nice little effects like a flashing border around your character when they’re being targeted or a portrait being replaced by a skull when a character’s been eliminated. The character designs themselves are pretty cool, but it would have been nice if they would have been utilized more, possibly in cut scenes during the Campaign mode. It would be interesting to see what these characters would have looked like with more than just head shots. The sound effects were decent enough, if nothing special. It would have been amusing to hear a character make some sort of snide remark with their dying breath, but alas everyone is pretty silent in this game. The music is pretty good, and it’s actually quite upbeat for the most part. It even speeds up to give you a sense of urgency as time is running out in Time Attack mode.
Puzzlegeddon is a nice example of what a developer can do to expand on the match 3 model. The matching actually blends well into the mechanics of the game, and you never really feel like you’re not getting enough of a particular resource (unless you lose, of course, but then who wouldn’t feel gypped at that point). The presentation is pleasant enough, and there’s certainly enough game to keep you busy since you can play all the modes in a Quick Game once you’ve beaten the Campaign. It would be great if you could play against other real players, but I’m not complaining too much since I’m not a big fan of online play anyway. I’d consider it for this game, though. My main gripe is that silly Challenge mode, except I have a feeling that’s not going away any time soon.
Overall Score: 8/10
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