I want to do more regular updates. So I’m going to try to do a game of the week. Admittedly, most of these will be apps since that’s the bulk of my game time these days. I’ll try to mix in some classics, indies, and big budget games as well. I’ll probably shoot for Fridays, but if anyone prefers Mondays let me know.
First up is the game I mentioned earlier, Puzzle Saga by Flipscript. Don’t confuse it with a game that goes by the same name on Facebook. This is an action match three puzzler with RPG trappings. It will inevitably be compared to Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes, but it’s much faster and doesn’t have story elements. A quick word of warning, one update added a big ad when you start up the game. However, since the game has been free for the past month, this can be forgiven.
In the beginning of the game, most everything is locked. You unlock things by winning battles and earning coins. You select a hero who determines the magic you can use. Then you select the types of units you want to lead into battle. Initially, you have basic Soldiers and Archers, but then you can unlock Knights, Axemen, Black Mages, Assassins, Witches, Clerics, Vikings, Snipers, Priestesses, and Druids. Each has their own attack type and can be upgraded twice, for coins, of course. Melee units generally only attack straight ahead in their row, but range units will attack any enemy.
Each level will start with your units in a grid formation at the bottom of the screen. You can swap two units to make a match of three or more. Any time you match three or more, those units will attack. If you make a match of five or more, you’ll launch a super attack. Enemies appear in patterned waves. They attack on countdown timers. If you’re efficient enough, you can keep attacking fast enough that they can’t attack you. If they do attack, the damage comes out of your hero’s hit points. If your hero’s hit points reach zero, you can continue with a full health bar for a fee of coins or it’s game over.
After you defeat all the waves of enemies, you get ranked based on the completion time and a technique rating. High combos, super attacks and magic attacks improve your technique. Time is based on a par for each level. If you come in under par, you get the full 1000 pts for time on that level. Each second over costs points. Technique only goes up to 200. You ideally want a combination that adds up to 1000 or more. That will give you an S ranking for that level. You can advance with any completion ranking of the level, but you’ll need all S ranks to unlock the challenge mode.
You see the game is broken up into theme islands, forest, undead, ice, etc. Each island has ten day levels. Get an S on all of those you unlock that island’s challenge mode. Playing challenge modes is where you can really earn coins. There are endless levels in the challenge mode, but you have a timer counting down. You have to complete as many waves as possible before the timer runs out. If you complete a wave below the par time, you can actually skip a level or two. That’s how you get the big coin rewards.
You’ll need all those coins since unlocking the upper tier units and heroes are pretty expensive. Unlocking all units and upgrading them while doing the same for heroes would be a near endless grind if you don’t get the bonus coins from the challenge levels. As it was, I unlocked everything without any in app purchases by moderate grinding on the ice level’s challenge.
So why is it fun? It’s got those great puzzle cascades from games like Puzzle Quest. With practice, you can launch near constant attacks that light up the screen with flashing animations and dying enemies. The sheer variety of units and heroes accommodates a huge variety of strategies. I ended up with the General as my hero. His low level magic lets you order any column of units to attack without a match. His second level launches every unit of a selected unit type. His top level magic super charges all your units increasing their damage output.
Most of the fun comes from the fast pace. While some unit animations will lock you out from making a particular match, most of the time you can just keep making matches even while other matches are attacking. You sort of settle into a zen rhythm of matching. Once you find a mix of units you like, it’s pretty addicting.
In addition to the basic mode, each island has a night mode with harder enemies. There’s also a completely separate puzzle mode that gives you limited units and moves to try to take out a set of enemies. In short, it’s a great deal of fun at $.99, but it’s a no brainer to try it while it’s free.
Any negatives? Well, I did have a handful of lock ups on my iPad. Also, I didn’t find the fire island much fun, particularly at night. Perhaps I didn’t have the right mix of heroes and units for it. Overall, highly recommended.