Hugging walruses every day. Or is it walrii? No, probably walruses
A match-3-or-more game with irritating flavor and lots and lots of specials.
Gameplay is simple. Select a group of 3 or more same-color pieces that are next to each other. They disappear, and nearby pieces slide in to take their place. The path they take sliding in is exactly the order you use selecting the pieces, so there's some strategy here. The game is always timed, however, which reduces the desire and ability to use strategy.
Using certain squares grant you "spell points" which can be used to cast "magic spells". These rearrange the board in various ways.
There are a vast, vast number of special items and problems which show up, many of which require immediate attention. This would be cool, except that it gets very hard to keep track of what effect is happening where... the graphics are all small and samey.
Every so often a minigame appears where you get to play pac-man.
|Fun Factor:||Medium. You can get into the zone, but it’s hard to stay there ... it’s a little bit too difficult to plan things, so you end up having to hunt for moves. Hunting is a little annoying because the pieces are very similar.|
|Pacing:||Pretty fast-paced, for a match-3. The introduction of new features is pretty swift, and the game itself, while not blazing fast, is kept pretty tense thanks to the game timer and various special pieces that need immediate attention.|
|Story:||Uh ... I don’t think so? The premise is that you’re a wizard gathering spell components. There’s this song that plays at the beginning of the game which hints there are adventures ahead, but absolutely no story happens in the first hour.|
The UI is relatively intuitive, but not exactly beautiful. The browns, the all-caps font, and the slightly squished feel all give me that late-80s/early-90s fantasy game feel. I bet if I changed the text on the main menu, I could convince people this was a screen from Bard’s Tale II. I'm not sure that's what they were going for, but I guess it worked well for them.
|Menus:||The menus are intuitive, but not exactly beautiful.|
|Pre-Game Instructions:||One-screen animated tutorial to start.|
|In-Game Tutorial:||Yes, optional tutorial for the first board.|
|Other Instructions:||In-game help book is always a click away, and it's full of info. However, all the info is IN ALL CAPS ON EVERY PAGE AND TEND NOT TO USE A WHOLE LOT OF PUNCTUATION SO THAT THEY’RE NOT UNGRAMMATICAL SO MUCH AS A LITTLE AWKWARD. DID I MENTION ALL CAPS ALL THE TIME?|
|Save Game:||Auto-saves but does not save the state of the current board. Saves progress in the game only.|
|Lefty Swapped Mouse:||Yes|
While the art style is a hodgepodge of random stuff, it somehow captures a feel of Cheesy B-Grade Fantasy.
|Backgrounds:||A small amount of nice art, and a small amount of fairly crappy art. All in all, not a whole lot of art.|
|Game Pieces:||The game pieces are pretty small and could really stand to be larger.|
|Fonts:||Standard fonts. They should be fine, but in practice they are LESS LEGIBLE THAN EXPECTED BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS IN ALL CAPS ON NEARLY EVERY SCREEN, SO IT LOOKS LIKE THE GAME IS SHOUTING ALL THE TIME.|
The music is very simple. The singing, though .. and the chirping imp ... these things are more memorable.
|Music:||The menus use a very monotonous 4 second loop. The game has a longer loop that isn’t as noticeable, but it’s still a pretty short musical score, from what I can tell. The feeling is "80s saturday morning fantasy adventure cartoon". Lots of oomphas. But the real centerpiece of the game's audio is the horrible singing. As you progress through the game you are occasionally interrupted by a ballad, sung as if by a ren-faire bard. The lines tend not to rhyme. These made me uncomfortable, because I can’t tell if they are earnest attempts at music or self-mockery. But they certainly add to the game’s flavor! There are a good number of songs to unlock, so I presume that if there’s story in this game somewhere, the songs tell the story.|
|Sound Effects:||These are okay. There’s a couple that aren’t noticeable enough, such as when good things show up on the board or bad things occur. A more dubious choice is the voice of Giggles the Imp, your on-screen assistant. He makes a horrible chirping sound while you play -- so horrible that after the first round, he asks if you want him to knock it off. However, it adds to the B-grade feeling quite a bit!|
|Resolution (Full Screen):||800x600|
|Cursors:||Hardware cursor is disabled, and a fake cursor is rendered into the scene. These cursors animate (magic wand drops sparkles; arrow cursor rotates when clicked).|
|Engine:||Unknown. Directory contains lots of files, not one bundle file. The files are mostly .BMP, .PNG, and .OGG, but they are not trivially viewable. A glance at the binary shows they are gibberish-ized, probably by mangling each byte via a trivial transform.|
|Size Downloaded:||6.5 MB|
|Size Installed:||29 MB. Those really are .BMP files!|
|Distributer:||Major portal sites|
|Credits In Game:||Yes|
This is the only loading screen the game has. A little ditty is played while this is shown. Lasts a few seconds, and then it’s on to the main menu. (I guess taking up 33 MB of disk space lets them load faster… that’s not a bad trade off, actually.) [Screenshot taken from full-screen mode, which explains the lack of border.]
Enter-your-name screen shown on main menu right when you start. [Screenshot taken from full-screen mode, which explains the lack of border.]
The main menu.
The Manage Profiles screen. I found it a bit confusing that there wasn’t a "Done" or "OK" button. Had to read twice before settling on "APPLY" to get the screen to go away.
The options screen. The "Chain Highlights" box cycles between off, on, and “strong”, which is the default. This determines whether you see in-game hints about available moves. I didn’t notice the difference between "on" and "strong".
Initial instruction screen. This screen animates to explain the rules.
Another game shot. Note the little triangle in the upper-right corner that says “Collect”. This only appears when I have a valid match going.
This screen shows up right after the first board finishes. The irritating imp voice is actually a crucial part of this game’s “charm”, however, and I suspect most people leave it on in spite of themselves. Otherwise how would you explain this game’s popularity? I’m trying here.
Between-levels screen. I couldn’t choose earlier levels from this screen, though it looked like maybe I should be able to. The “Study” button brings up the trophy screen. The “Songs” button lets you re-listen to songs you’ve unlocked.
Trophy Room (the “Study”). You don’t get to do anything cool in here. I’d hoped you could mix potions or something, but nope.
The list of songs you can listen to (once they are unlocked).
Here’s the first song being played. Words go by in karaoke style. Pictures are shown as the song progresses. Small bug: if you alt-tab away during the song, the words and the music get out of sync pretty dramatically.
I’ve unlocked a new game piece. Go me. Note that this pointy thing is an “orb”. Huh!
Screen shown at end of each level. Note that those medals next to the statistics are granted when you beat your previous statistic from an earlier board. It gets harder and harder to earn new medals as you progress.
Mini-game time. It’s pac-man.
A page of game instructions, accessible by pressing “Help” from the game screen or the pause menu. There are nine pages of instruction here. When in Duel Mode, there are two pages of instruction (different instructions, obviously).
Game credits, accessible from the main menu.
The setup screen for Duel Mode. Pretty intimidating, even though an instruction box showed up before this screen appeared. Note the “MouseParty” feature, which lets you play the game with two mice connected to the same machine. This is not especially impressive for Magic Match, because in Duel Mode, you take turns – you don’t both go at once. Windows XP already lets you share mouse pointers between two mice. MouseParty is only interesting when two people are doing two different things at once. Still, having the checkbox there lets people know that they can do this, when otherwise it probably would never occur to them.
Duel Mode in action. The cursor becomes a black pointer when it’s the other player’s turn (or the CPU’s turn).
The pause menu.