match 3

The first Escape From Paradise was a great game. It had good puzzles to figure out, generic but addictive mini-games, and it had a lot of charm with the chibi-like characters with their big heads. All in all, it was a good “island survival” game that incorporated other casual game genres. Its sequel, however, was a major disappointment.

Maybe I just had my hopes up a little too high, or maybe it was dumbed down because the challenges were deemed too tough for the casual gamer; either way, the game feels like a series of chores. A series of chores with sub-par minigames to make up for the lack of riddles.

The entire game focuses on collecting jewels and tikis, and in order to do so, you need to:

  1. Lead your monkey all over the place looking for tiny 2×3 pixel jewels hidden in the grass and trees;
  2. Complete quests;
  3. Complete mini-games.
  4. Catch all the fish, dig up all the fossils, and catch all the birds.

There are multiple problems with this way of finishing a game.

  1. Those jewels are tiny. If you realized that you missed any AFTER you’ve done point 2 as well as 3, you’ll end up leading your monkey around the entire map looking for a few colored pixels.
  2. The quests are easy – there is no challenge in them at all. They come with clear directions and end up being just a series of chores.
  3. The mini-games range from match-3, hidden object, click-management…to sudoku. Name any one person who’s good at ALL of those. You’ll have to be, since there are no hints or extra powerups in sudoku or match-3. And they’re long games.
  4. Birds are VERY hard to catch.

On top of that, there’s the control scheme. You can either left click and drag a person to a spot, or you can left-click and right click. Sounds simple right? Now add to it that right click and dragging the map moves it, and once you select someone, you can’t access the map. So in order to move someone across the entire map, you’d end up doing a whole lot of dragging. The map is this tiny box at the bottom of the screen that can’t be enlarged, and has no significant markers. In other words, getting around is very frustrating.

Graphics and sound of this game is just as good as the last one, if not better. The core mechanics – hunger, thirst, sleep and social – stayed the same. Load times are minimal, and you can quit and autosave any time you like.

Escape From Paradise 2 isn’t necessarily a bad game. It’s still a fine casual game, but it seriously pales in comparison to the original. It’s just a bad sequel. It’s a step backwards. For $6.99, it’s a deal if you enjoy any of the mini-games.

If you are getting this game, I highly recommend getting the strategy guide with it. It is superbly written, with clear directions and great screenshots, even a map with all the locations. The only downside to the guide is that you can’t print things out.

Having played Plumeboom: The First Chapter from beginning to end (and I rarely do that with match-3s – they just tend to bore me after the first, oh, 50 levels) I have quite high expectations for The Golden Path of Plumeboom. I expect it to be fun, original, full of surprises, features new game mechanics, and keeps me interested ’til the very end. I was not disappointed; The Golden Path is easily more addictive than … than … any match-3 I’ve ever laid my hands on.

To call The Golden Path a Shoot-3 is like saying a game of Polo is like a game of Snooker. Sure, both involves hitting balls with sticks, but that’s where the similarities end. In The Golden Path of Plumeboom, a magnetized treasure key sits in the middle of your screen and rotates freely according to how you shoot the balls into it. The weight of it changes depending on how many balls are still stuck to it, and your job is to shoot balls into it to match-3s. On the scale that it’s presented to you, that’s what it’s supposed to be. It feels more like shooting balls into a really big astral body with gravity.

At first glance the game feels a bit like Puzzle Bobble. When you shoot a ball, it’ll first align itself to the magnetic field and than spirals towards the middle. When it hits a like-colored ball, it’d stick to it, sometimes forcing that ball to leave the magnet depending on how much force it hits it with. If it hits a ball of another color it’d bounce and goes back into the magnetic field. All the while the magnet is spinning freely depending on where the ball hits it, and how much weight is on it. If you can’t find anything to shoot to make a match, you can bounce the ball off the ceiling.

Each level has its own power-ups, and the game presents them one at a time to keep the game fresh. There are rockets, fireballs, even one to demagnetize the key for a short time. The mechanism for activating these are in diamond balls attached to the magnet. Make a direct shot to one and the power-up is activated. Some levels also contain one or more free balls that bounces around like photons, and they knock into anything in their path. You can use these to your advantage by waiting for the it to knock your colored balls into groups so you can get at them, or it could be an obstacle if it keeps getting in your way.

While you’re trying to keep your atom/planet/key in balance, two “guns” in some levels keep shooting balls into the game field whenever you don’t make a match. All the while, more than generous time bar keeps ticking down. It’s all very, very exciting. A game like this doesn’t even need mini-games. Good thing too – it doesn’t have any.

When you have a game that makes you perform the same actions over and over again, there is a need to introduce “minigames” to break up the action, but The Golden Path of Plumeboom introduces new shapes in the middle of your screen every stage, providing a different challenge every time.

All of this is backed up by hardware accelerated particle effects and pretty, shiny graphics and backgrounds. Sure, there aren’t any mini-games. Once you start, however, you won’t be able to stop. Even though I could finish off a level really quickly and turn it off, I couldn’t. It was 3 AM when I finally decided that it’s time to sleep.

The Golden Path of Plumeboom is possibly the best game nobody seems to be playing right now, and I’m urging you to download it, try it, and buy it. Why it’s not a hit is beyond me, but I guess in this industry being innovative doesn’t necessarily bring riches. Instead of making a generic match-3 or cranking out a hidden object game in some basement, Fireglow Games instead brought us something addictive, fun to play, and new. I’ll be looking forward to the next installment.

One can accomplish many things matching 3 things. You can find treasures, build a fashion empire, save a candy factory, and so on and so forth. In this case, matching 3 things leads to the building of the (new) 7 Wonders of the world.

Gameplay is the typical swap-3 to break walls, with a twist. Instead of these walls being “obstacles,” they’re the building stones of your chosen bonus. The workers who are responsible for picking up these stones will bring them to the left side of the screen to boost your bonus. Every level also has a “keystone” that you have to bring down from the top of the screen; once they’re down, you win the level. On the right side is a time bar, and once that runs out, you’re doomed to restart the level.

7 Wonders II builds upon the basic mechanic just described that were basically the same as the original in a couple of ways. There are the bonus puzzle levels that can be played once you collect all the map pieces, which in turn are gained by doing special matches on the game board. These are essentially mini-games the turns the match-3 board into a puzzle – drop the key piece down to the bottom is a limited number of movies – and are definitely a nice diversion. Secondly, the stones that you gain during the levels can be used to “build” the 7 Wonders by dragging them onto the construction site, which reveals a number of bonuses that can be used in the next level.

As you go through these secret levels, you will gain special power-ups that can be used during your levels. You can only set one of them at a time for the entire level, and sometimes it makes or breaks your chance of winning a level. There are a total of 12 of them, and they run the gamut from point multipliers to the symbol breakers. None of the are powerful enough to make the game too easy, but they definitely help to move things along when you’re seemingly stuck.

Speaking of stuck, 7 Wonders II has a wonderful new feature: a shuffle button. How I wished for a shuffle button in the original 7 Wonders! It would’ve saved me a lot of time staring at the screen trying to find one last thing that needs to be matched before the screen auto-shuffled.

Each chapter is accompanied by a well-written article on each of the “new” 7 Wonders. Granted, these aren’t exactly the list of new 7 Wonders we are used to, but they do come from the big list. Each of these are beautifully drawn. Speaking of beautiful, 7 Wonders II is leaps and bounds ahead in terms of graphics from its original. The effects are prettier, the music is comparable, and all the tiles and animation has had a rehaul.

7 Wonders II is not especially long for a Match-3 game. With 7 Wonders to build and a secret location to head to at the end, it will keep you playing. Unlike other Match-3s that you might wish were shorter halfway through the game, 7 Wonders II is just long enough, and the power-ups spread out enough, to keep you interested until the end. A very good diversion all around.

What can a game bring to the Match-3 genre that hasn’t been done before? We’ve done the drag-3, we’ve used hexagons instead of squares, put chains around boxes, threw bombs inside the boxes, we’ve even expanded the screens. Pirate Island did something that I don’t recall seeing before – instead of moving pieces adjacent to one another, we get to swap pieces around on the board.

Aside from that, Pirate Island is almost a cookie cutter Big Kahuna Reef clone. Match 3 icons or more horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. Matching 4 or more, as well as matching crosses, gives you bombs, that when matched create spectacular explosions. As you progress in your adventure, the boards get more complicated and there will be a need to clear each tile more than once, as well as chains added to some boxes to slow your advancement. Power-ups are limited to the hammer and the hourglass, which are self-explanatory.

The one thing that I find that really sets Pirate Island apart is the very unforgiving time meter as well as the ability to keep going around matching things as matches are already in progress. If you have a quick hand, you could rack up combos as you create match after match, and it promotes a fast and furious game.

When you finish each level, you’ll be rewarded with skeletons in weird hats that were probably not invented when Pirates were in existence, doing a little jig. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. It’s strangely entertaining. The hats in question ranges from the white wig to the baseball cap. Between chapters there is also a mini-game, that isn’t so much a mini-game as a “points giveaway.” These are usually puzzles where you have to swap images around to create a complete picture, or the typical memory game. Again, nothing new, but it does go towards breaking up the non-stop match-3 action.

I’ve only played previous games from Nevosoft that are hidden object games, namely the mysteryville series as well as Magic Academy. These games are characterized by very well drawn graphics and a well-told (sometimes too convolutely) story. Pirate Island is no different; each chapter is accompanied by beautifully drawn backdrops and each story segment with lively characters and a full, well-written script.

Pirate Island doesn’t bring anything particularly new to the genre, but it is an addictive Match-3 that provides hours of entertainment. It saves mid-level, and that’s always a plus in my book. The story is also another plus; whoever heard of a match-3 with a good story with twists in it?

Pirate Island is available as a trial on Big Fish Games, and it’s also on MostFun for unlimited free play with their player download.

I’ve been receiving some emails and comments on the game Emerald Tale, and how nobody seem to be able to find all the coins. I’ve emailed Enkord on your behalf, and I just got back an answer today. Apparently there was a bug in the first version of the game, and there is a patch to fix it.

“…unfortunately there was a technical mistake and 4 coins
are missing in our first version. It is easily to fix with our patch
(may be downloaded from here
by the next steps:

1. Open the folder with a game installed (usually it’s c:\Program Files\)
2. Open the patch
3. Copy the folder “data” from patch to game folder “Emerald Tale”
4. Replay the levels showed in pictures from patch.

Enkord Ltd.

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.

The tags for this game reads “original” and “match-3.” No, I’m not on anything, this really is an original match-3. After having played this, I realized that the two are not mutually exclusive; it is possible to make a match-3 (or more) game that doesn’t involve ever changing containers for the shapes, and gimmicky ideas like having different symbols for every level. You can make a match-3 with new ideas that makes it worth playing from the beginning to the end.

Plumeboom involves a little bird who destroys colored potions that turns innocent birds into evil bird soldiers. Potions arrive by conveyors, and your job is to shoot potions to swap with the ones in the conveyors. When you match 3 or more same-colored potions, they are destroyed. As you play, conveyors will keep moving forward, bringing more potions into play. Once a color has been eliminated, it stays out of the game. It’s very simple to learn, but can be very strategic as you “swap” potions instead of getting random ones all the time.

Complicating this system is an elaborate list of power-ups and obstacles. After each mission, you can buy power-ups with “coins” you gained during the mission. These are represented by potions, and once they are available you can spend as much coin on it as you like, bringing them up in levels. These appear randomly in play; when you match potions with these “powered-up” potions, they destroy lines/X’s/cause random detonations, etc – and they are very satisflying.

There are three different kinds of obstacles. The Black Jug will not disappear and cannot be matched, and must be eliminated by destroying all the jugs in front of it. The spider on occasion spins a web that you cannot shoot jugs into, and they’re vertical lines right through your game field. Containers of three sometimes appear and you must match the three potions inside of it to destroy it since it cannot match the outside potions. As all this happens, the conveyors move ever so closely forward, and when it hits the right side of the screen, you lose a life.

A very cute invention is the “dress match bonus” system. Your little bird character can wear clothes to suit the climate of the map, and you decide this in the bonus lab. For example, for a fiery hot climate you’d wear nothing but a fireman’s hat, and for a snow storm you’d have a scarf, winter boots, and a warm hat. The only problem with this that is that you’re never shown what’s the coming weather is like, and you either have to go by what you remember of the world map or wait until you’ve finished the first mission of the region. It’s a cute way to add an extra layer of gameplay, regardless.

Plumeboom: The First Chapter utilizes hardware particle effects, and they’re quite impressive. The characters seem to be pre-rendered 3D, and they are exceedingly cute – even the enemies. Music is catchy and the sound effects, especially the explosions, adds much to the gameplay.

For originality in a stale genre, Plumeboom is definitely a series I’ll keep my eye on. Worth the buy!

A different take on a matching game. Instead of matching jewels by moving them around, you get to rotate the board instead. Controls are just move mouse and click – very intuitive.

Play Jewels Gear.

The second installment in the Hidden Expedition series is out! It’s a Big Fish Games exclusive. Here’s the blurb off their website:

“Fresh from a successful exploration of the wreck of the Titanic, the Hidden Expedition Club will pit one of its stellar members against a formidable group of opponents in a race to the summit of Everest. Other groups will battle you to be the first to summit Mount Everest. Expert Everest climber Ed Viesturs will assist you along the way. Explore mysteries of the world as you find hidden clues. Race to the Roof of the World!

  • Over 30 stunningly beautiful scenes from around the world
  • 4 Character mini-games
  • Ed Viesturs’ exclusive footage of the world’s most dangerous summits
  • Race around the world to reach Everest”

30 locations! Woot! That’s the highest count yet. Can’t wait to dig my mouse into this one


When I first took a look at Secrets of Olympus, my thoughts were: not ANOTHER match-3! Not another one that’s based on Greek/Roman mythology with a dash of Zeus thrown in! Once I started, however, I realized that this game is much more than the theme. Secrets of Olympus is 4 games in one – Collapse, match-3, hangman, and good old shape match.

At the beginning you’d be faced with the normal mode, which everyone should be familiar with, and the relax mode, which has no timer. Then when a level start you’d be faced with more choices: “Switch” or “Click” which means “switching tiles” or “clicking tiles” – match-3 or collapse. These maps are not identical in each level; they’re designed to play well as either match-3 or collapse. Whichever mode you choose also has different power-ups. Either one you play, the objective is to clear all the stone tiles on the board.

The usual “chain” tiles that you have seen since Big Kahuna Reef still applies. Double chains require double effort, and sometimes you will see tiles that has a key in it. Unlocking 3 of these will land you a new power-up to use. Instead of the “match this object to gain a specific power-up,” Secrets of Olympus has opted for “match anything.” Doing successive stone breaking will also net you stars, and five stars will gain you access to a bonus level of shape match. Question marks will also be present in some levels, and when you break a tile next to those, you can play a game of hangman for bonus points.

What will strike you about Secrets of Olympus is how well everything runs. There is zero load time at the beginning of the game, and everything runs smooth as butter. From the falling of the tiles, to the punch of a power-up, the sound of a letter being chosen wrong in a game of Hangman, there’s never a feel that this game was rushed to production. The mini-games do a lot to alleviate the increasingly boring – mind you, brainlessly addictive – nature of match-3’s. These are also well-done and almost feel like games of their own, which is saying quite a lot for a mini-game in a match-3 of all things.

Definitely worth a download, and most likely, you’d be buying it. This is a game for keeps.

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