Take a match 3 that involves symbols growing out of the ground and matching them by moving one symbol at a time from one spot of the map to another (Harvest Mania), add a dash of Wonderland Adventures’ cute characters and the idea of “exploring” a map for keys to open doors as well as finding bonus coins and power-ups, confine it to a screen-sided map with no scrolling, wrap it all up in gorgeous, sparkling graphics, and you have Emerald Tale. By no means original, but it’s definitely a whole lot of addictive fun.

The storyline in Emerald Tale is a very Zelda-like one, where a princess has been kidnapped and you (a simple peasant) must save her. So you travel the lands trying to get to her, with a number of levels in the way between you and the final puzzle. It seems to be written entirely in Engrish. The grammatical mistakes made me cringe enough to not ever show it to a child developing his vocabulary, otherwise the game contains no references to violence whatsoever.

The goal of each level is to get your fussy headed character to the exit. Sometimes there might be entire mountains in the way, others just a door where you have to blow up a mountain to get to the key. Other times you’ll face iron blocks that can only be destroyed by fire, and some levels all that’s between you and the exit are a few blocks. Each level contains a gem that you can collect to complete “tablets” as well as sometimes containing a treasure that you can equip later for increasing the number and power of your power-ups. Sometimes there are more than one exit, and you have to choose which one you want to go through. Thankfully, you can easily replay a level in the world map to choose another exit as soon as you’re done.

What would a match-3 be without power-ups? Emerald Tale has plenty of these and the results are quite impressive. There are the standard bombs that destroys foundations, rain of fire that destroys from the top down, rockets that selectively targets obstacles and not blocks, fire crackers that targets a “+” sign area.  These randomly grows from the ground just like runes, and how often they appear and how strong they are depends on the three treasures you can equip before starting each level. Matching these power-ups to two same-colored runes activates them.

As you progress in the game, you will meet many other cute fussy headed characters that looks suspiciously like those from Wonderland Adventures. They will give you hints about the level you’re in, and sometimes hint at other levels that you can get to. They really don’t add too much to the game aside from cuteness – signs could’ve done the same job, since these characters are stationary.

There are 4 tablets that you can complete, with gems you can find in the levels. They don’t seem to add too much to the game aside from giving you another motivation to blow up everything in each level to get to them. If you miss one though, it’s hard to find it on your way back – there’s no way to find out what’s left in a level to get once you’re outside of it. It would be very, very nice to get a tooltip on what’s left in a level.

Emerald Tale is a beautiful game. All the objects in each level are perfectly rendered, the world map is beautifully drawn. The level of detail everywhere you look is simply stunning. To top that off, the background music and the sound effects are wonderful as well. I can’t get over how good this puzzle game looks!

There are a lot of levels. 110 of them. Each of time will take anywhere from a minute to 20 minutes to finish, depending on your level of completeness – find the exit or find everything? Should you find the secret exit or just go with the normal levels? Talk to all the characters or plow right through? Each level is automatically saved so you can continue whenever you like – it’s the perfect minute game. I had a lot of fun playing this – definitely worth the buy.