[EXPRESSO] Temple Run: Puzzle Adventure iOS | Thine Freemium Designs

To be brutally honest, this game in itself leaves very little to talk/comment about, as in it’s EXACTLY what you’d think it would be: a generic match-3 puzzle game using the license-name of a popular but old IP that benefits of the deal because people that ever so much do remember Temple Run, with generic character and art style.

Heck, i probably wouldn’t have known it existed if i wasn’t subscribed to Apple Arcade, and this – alongside some of the shittier releases like Galaga + – makes it more obvious how the service’s main selling point of featuring games without ads & microtransactions..is GOOD, but inadvertly exposes how many of these were mostly designed as freemium

We previously reviewed the quite similar match 3 revival of Zoo Keeper on Apple Arcade, but that just happens to be better and way more feature complete overall.

Which makes even more strange how it still feels pretty obvious something it’s “off”, because the game it’s honestly alright, but doesn’t have much to the standard match 3 formula seen a squillion on times, nor does it have an adventure twist despite being called Temple Run… or anything else besides the puzzles themselves.

Still, i played through 50 + of the puzzles and i had to eventually check online what the hell i was getting gems for, as in, you can buy power-ups, but due to the game not telling me at all, often outright handing out some, and the puzzles not being that hard, i wondered if i had to progress to unlock something where to spend the gems.

But nope.

It’s obvious this was designed as a freemium thing first, that easy to imagine it as such.

It’s inoffensive, but also disposable, even on Apple Arcade there are better puzzle games.

[EXPRESSO] Zookeeper World iOS | Match From The Past

Look what the Apple Arcade (yeah, eventually i decided to pay for it, 5 bucks a month it’s not a bad deal overall, in my opinion) resurrected, Zoo Keeper of all franchises.

I distinctly remember when this little match-3 puzzle game came out and managed to make the transiction from cute fun free flash game to full retail release..s, not just on the Game Boy Advance and DS, but even on the PS2. Those were different times indeed.

Of course it had been released on smarthphones after that, as Zoo Keeper DX Touch Edition and it even got a free-to-play VS version, Zoo Keeper Battle.

This new game retains the distinct aesthetic that admittely makes the series stand out more than the gameplay itself, one that translates well in voxel-style 3D graphics, but thankfully developer Kiteretsu also added more aside puzzles, in this case being the ever-popular “simulation-lite” management elements of adding more stuff to increase the appeal of the zoo, fulfilling requests, or doing menial jobs like cleaning up, alongside some minigames.

The simulation elements are lite as expected and needed, but the core gameplay it’s surprisingly addictive and manages to keep things interesting enough along the way via new obstacles and gimmicks, despite being a simple match-3 affair.

Though i do wonder if it was originally built as a free-to-play game, it’s clearly structured like one in terms of unlocks and progression, there are more currencies and cosmetic stuff like a punk costume for the monkeys, but since it’s an Apple Arcade release there are no microtransactions and shit, so you can actually enjoy playing a puzzle game on mobile without being continuosly pressured into paying money to skip deliberately excessive grind.

Not exactly a “subscription seller” or whatnote, but it’s honestly just good mobile puzzle game fun.

[EXPRESSO] Super Star Path NSWDDL | Match-3 Shooter Mess

After quite enjoying Bot Vice, i decided to check out the others games the spanish DYA Games had on the Switch eShop, and this one got my attention, especially because of the concept, a mixture of puzzle game and 2D spaceship shooter.

And it was on sale for 1 buck.

Basically, it plays like a standard 2D spaceship shooter (down to the vertical scrolling), but the aliens and obstacles are placed in a still grid like they’re puzzle pieces, so shooting a row of aliens of the same color triggers a chain reaction, making nearby aliens of different colors crystalize into unbreakable blocks. Defeated aliens also leave behind gems, emeralds (3 for stage to collect) and upgrades, which can be used to buy more spaceships and upgrade their stats.

This… until you reach the level’s boss, then the pace speeds up considerably, the puzzle elements are thrown away all together, and you can use autofire. You’ll need it, since the bosses are fast and hit hard even at the beginning, throwing bullet hell style projectile patterns, quite jarring, even when you know it’s coming and you bought/upgraded better ships…it just feels like a different game, and i feel it’s done to just pad the longevity out a bit, as you have only 6 levels, each longer and featuring some specific obstacle/damage.

Problem is arriving to the bosses themselves it’s more a matter of luck than anything else, due to badly randomized level layouts, which result in many runs where you simply can’t do anything to avoid dying, trapped by the enemies patterns to be crushed by the scrolling in a way or another.

Shame, because the idea is nice, but for how short lived this game is, it’s mostly a frustrating, unbalanced pile of aggravation more than anything else. Disappointing.

P.S.: Also, don’t bother tackling the final mission unless you have ALL the emeralds, because even if you manage to kill the boss… you will die anyway if you don’t already have all the emeralds. No, the game doesn’t make it clear you NEED to get them all to even finish the game, it just says that you need to get them all, implying they’re important to the story and in general to the game, in the How To Play section.

Fuck you too, Super Star Path.

Please never pull shit like this again. Just don’t.

[EXPRESSO] Pokemon Café Mix iOS | Got Milc?

Pokemon Cafe Mix iOS.PNG

Another Pokemon puzzle game, another free-to-play (or more correctly, “free-to-start”, as Nintendo themselves likes to call these games) for mobile and Switch, this time with a cutesy pastel cafè aesthetic, as you manage a Pokemon cafè, operated by and for Pokemon, alongside a human girl, who acts as a general assistant-tutorial figure.

This is done via puzzle challenges, thankfully not of the “match 3” kind (we already had plenty of those with a Pokemon license), nor or the Panel The Pon/Puzzle League variety, but in turn based grid-less form, with the objective of linking together chains of pokemons, in order to activate an ability, destroy special blocks, or because of a stage requiring a certain quota of Pokemon pieces/icons to be matched.

Each pokemon has a specific ability, a specialization for a certain kind of dish (drinks, sandwiches, desserts, etc.), and as you progress you unlock more critters but also more recipes and new expansions for the cafè, which in turn introduce new elements and stage objectives, with some random chances of increasing the friendship level with a certain pokemon, who will join the staff.

The gameplay is decent, but the more free-form, grid-less style of level design makes it too reliant on abilities and consumable objects, a bit too helpful in this case, especially because you can also activate them during the stage, not just before. All to push you into buying the premium currency, which happens a bit too fast, it won’t take long to realize so with the limited energy system, timers and the extra turns costing a lot of “gems”.

While i’ve seen worse monetization schemes and freemium economies, there’s also the fact i’ve seen and played way better puzzles game. This is a very cute distraction (with a tad manipulative freemium economy), but not much else.

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[EXPRESSO] One Piece: Bon Bon Journey iOS | Match-3 Pirates

One Piece Bon Bon Journey iOS

There are many One Pieces videogames, even on smarthphones. This is another one, one that i actually pre-registrered for, but i didn’t noticed it released worlwide a couple of months ago.

For smarthphones we already had a One Piece lite RPG, a beat em up, a fighting game (among others never released outside of Japan, China or are defunct), so i guess it was time for a puzzle game, a match-3 with objectives (in the vein of that puzzle game that rimes with “baba yaga”), done in a chibi-esque style, with the numerous, regognizable and highly marketable cast of One Piece characters rendered as mini-sized round shaped head-dolls, like a cross between the actual “bon bons” pastry items and nicely decapited collectable figures.

And to my surprise, it’s actually fairly good, not original in any shape or form, but it actually retells the story from the beginning in a fairly decent manner (especially given the aesthetic choice), and finds ways to work the various scenes (even minor ones like the girl giving an onigiri to a tied Zoro in Shells Town) into the gameplay, with various goals and gimmicks to keep things interesting. This also means having a “toy on toy” style cutscenes for the more serious or epic scenes, like the ending of the Dracule Mihawk VS Zoro fight at the Baratie… which is a thing, not sure if good or bad though.

As far as the freemium economy goes… it’s nothing worthy of particular scorn, the usual free-to-play crap that is to be expected nowadays (shit as it is), with timers and gacha, but nothing out of the ordinary you haven’t already seen, and often done worst. Despite the usual freemium crap, here you can actually do some progress in a reasonable manner even in the later stages.

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[EXPRESSO] Sparkle 2 PSN | Zuma Fantasy Quest

Sparkle 2 PSN

If you like Zuma, you’ll probably enjoy Sparkle 2, i assume sequel to “Sparkle”, if this wasn’t given as one of PS Plus monthly “free” games, i wouldn’t even know it exists.

Yeah, it’s a “Zuma clone”, which isn’t a bad thing at all, as we aren’t (or ever were) exactly drowning in them, and unlike the original Zuma, this one doesn’t become frustrating and obscenely difficult towards the end, punishing you for just wishing to beat the game. This is a lot better, since it actually cares a lot more about being fun to play than being difficult for the sake of it.

To differentiate itself a bit, Sparkle 2 lets you equip passive abilities for the orb slinger, which – besides being more numerous than expected – are just unlocked as you go, and can be quite useful. The presentation is simple but nice, even if the story amount to you being in a fantasy place on a quest to obtain 5 keys that will unlock.. something, with “screensaver cutscenes” accompanied by a good (albeit not exactly ecstatic) narrating voice.

While i appreciate that it’s really trying to give me more “bang for my buck” (it also has a Challenge Mode and Survival Mode, leaderboards, harder difficulties), in the long run i wish Sparkle 2 campaign was shorter, it boasts 92 levels, sure, but after a while they start to repeat themselves (and so do the nice music and backgrounds), just harder with faster moving orbs and more colors to match.

Even if i wish they didn’t try to make so many levels when they clearly couldn’t (hence the “need” to recycle them for filler purposes), i found myself getting back to it time after time and i gladly played it to the end.

Overall, a more than decent “Zuma clone”, and a fun one.

 

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