drag 3

If you’re only going to get one game, you should get Escape From Paradise. I’m not kidding about this; there are so many mini-games (that are actually derivatives of full games) that you’re actually getting 17 games for the price of one. If you’re part of the game club (really, if you’re going to buy it off the fish, you might as well take advantage of the $6.99 pricetag), $6.99 for 17 games is a tremendous deal.

I’m not saying it’s perfect. I thought the graphics look quite dated and the sound effects a little over-compressed and fuzzy. Compared to the cell-shaded graphics of other casual games, and the other Toy Box Games offering, Nanny Mania, this looks downright homely.  The mini-games are very playable, but there’s nothing original about them – it’s just your varied offering of the most typical casual games. From a Diner Dash clone to Chinese Checkers or even a game of marbles, it’s all here. There’s even a game of bridge-war, and I’m not sure if there are casual game equivalents. The last time I played that game was in Romance of the Three Kingdoms X.

The core game is simular to Virtual Villagers, but with much more going on most of the time. X’s will appear all over the sand for you to dig up; new objectives come up on the map as soon as you’re finished with the last one, so you’re never stuck wondering what you should do next. When you’re desperately low on food, you can always play a mini-game and stock up – unlike in VV where if you’re low on food you could be seeing some hard times and some very dead villagers.

Also, instead of the aquarium nature of VV, you have an active colony that you must take part of. There is a choice of buildings to erect as you progress in the game, and as you get closer to the ending, you also get more levels for each of your mini-games to play with.  Even when you’re done with the core game, you can access any of the mini-games via the main menu screen. The animations are varied and well-done – your lumberjacks will chop faster as they progress in skill level, and your providers can whip out a fishing rod when they want to fish.

My only real complaint is that there is no pause button during the mini-games. I LIVE by the pause button – if the baby’s fussing, the kettle’s screaming, I just click pause and get to it and come back later. Without the pause button, I can hardly pass any of the diner levels. Thankfully, time is not that much of an issue in the other mini-games. All in all, a great game to have in your collection, and you get great bang for the buck too.

Curtis says: I usually don’t like match-3s – they don’t move enough to interest me. But this one has so many different symbols and the whole screen moves with lots of action. The graphics are also very bright and mommy call out the symbols to me and points to them. I can watch this one for 20 minutes at a time.

Match-3’s are a dime a dozen: maybe they don’t cost a dime a dozen, but there are certainly lots and lots of them around, each with their own generic power-ups with cosmetic changes, and seemingly endless amount of levels. Clayside is a good example of a well-done match 3, but it really didn’t do too much to change the genre.

Clayside is what I’d call a “drag-3.” Instead of clicking on two adjacent symbols to swap them to make matches, a drag-3 lets you drag entire rows tr columns in order to make matches. This allows for much greater flexibility in setting up combos – you could set up a whole row of them going off at once! It isn’t new, per say, but I’m surprised there aren’t more drag-3 games in the match-3 genre. The only other game I’ve played before that was a drag-3 was Barnyard Invasion (which is a worthwhile play as well; fun and humorous.)

There isn’t really a pretense of a story at all. As you go through the stages, you get to choose between two different power-ups you can level up, and you get zoomed around different parts of the map for different stages, then after some stages you get to see your house being built. The tagline “build your own house” isn’t really accurate; you’re just watching improvements being done to this plot of land without any of your intervention whatsoever. There really isn’t anything new here on the rewards side.

The graphics in Clayside is based on “clay” art. So everything looks like it’s made of clay. Really perfect looking clay, so to speak. Each “area” also has different looking symbols to match so you won’t be staring at the same thing the entire game. The sound is a bit different than the chimes you hear in the other match-3 games – when the pieces explode, you hear more of a “plop” than a “ching.” It’s pretty satisfying, and Curtis doesn’t find it annoying, which is nice.

Clayside has some great obstacles and power-ups. I especially like the key and lock; when you match something over a key, all the locked pieces of the same kind opens up, which makes for some awesome looking combos. The whole screen starts exploding away and it’s just immensely satisfying. The rockets, bombs, lighning, firebombs – all sorts of destructive power-ups we have here combined with the drag-3 mechanism makes a fast-moving and fun game. It only takes a minute to play, very short load time, and saves mid-level.