Welcome to 180, the match 3 game with a twist. The layout of the game isn’t quite your traditional match 3, but the spirit is certainly there. Whatever the game’s full inspiration is it’s quite fun, and that’s the best genre a game can be in. The best part is that the twist that gives it the name 180 allows you to basically make this your own game in how you choose to play. You can’t really ask for more than that.
The concept is quite simple. The game board is divided into 6 columns, and a series of objects will descend from the top of the screen in each of those six columns. You can launch an object at the oncoming wall, and once that object hits the wall you can launch another one. The key is that each object in the wall is a certain color, and when you match 3 or more of a color either horizontally or vertically, all the objects of that color that are touching your match will go away. The goal is to keep the wall from reaching the bottom of the screen for as long as you can. Here’s where the twist comes in – each object is really actually two colors.
Yep, now you know the secret. If you tap an object you can flip it over, revealing a different color on the other side. All the pieces on the board can be flipped, the object that you’re launching can be flipped, and even the “on deck” piece can be flipped. Basically, this means you have a lot more control over the matches that you’re trying to make. It also means that with a bit of creativity you can actually set up chains (one match triggering another match), and you can also set up the ultimate achievement – clearing the screen. Both of these situations net you extra points, and it’s within your grasp if you can think the situation out quickly enough. Just remember that the pieces are constantly on a downward march, so if you leave things or play around with them too long, you won’t have time to react before a crisis strikes.
The game has three modes of play – endless, score attack and drop attack. While I’m not normally an “endless mode” kind of guy, that’s actually my favorite mode in 180. The nice thing is that even though it’s endless there are actually levels, so you still feel like you’re accomplishing milestones as you go along. Score attack gives you 90 seconds to get as many points as you can. It would have been nice to have a few different selections for the amount of time you could play this mode on, but 90 seconds is a pretty good allocation. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what the point of drop attack is, though I suppose the distance markers on the right side of the screen should give me some indication. The game is OpenFeint enabled, and unlike a lot of games, the achievements the developer has lined up for you aren’t for the feint of heart (sorry for the pun).
The graphics are simple but very pleasing to the eye. The different objects remind me of fossilized versions of marshmallows from Lucky Charms. You have a choice of 4 cute characters to choose from, and each one will sit down in the lower left corner and cheer you on when you are doing well. Of course, they’ll also be devastated when you finally lose. There really aren’t a lot of special effects except for when the objects disappear after a match, but that’s a pretty decent visual. The only thing I didn’t really care for was the dialog at the end showing your final statistics. Normally I’m not for standard user interface elements thrown into a game, but I think a regular iPhone dialog might have looked better than the half-screen presentation that currently exists. Or, maybe the stats screen just needs to go full screen.
The sound effects are decent, and amazing don’t get annoying even though they are comprised mainly of the noise made when an object disappears. It would have been nice if the little avatars made some sounds, but I guess they’ll just continue to cheer us on in silence. The music is nice and relaxing. We just need a couple more tracks. One for each game type would be cool. Personally, I think the 90 second attack mode should have a wild, energetic track to it.
While the combination match 3 / something else genre has taken off in the App Store, more traditional match 3 fare has begun to stagnate in recent months. Thankfully developers like Headcase Games are coming along and realizing that this is a genre that doesn’t need to go away – it just needs to be rejuvenated. 180 is a great start for that cause. The game is quite fun, the ability to flip pieces gives you more control then you’ve probably ever had in a match 3 game before, and the little avatars give the game some personality without interfering with game play. Overall 180 is a nicely polished game that deserves some limelight that it sadly probably won’t get. How about you give it some love?