One thing I like about the collection of games under the ArianeSoft label is that it’s hard to look at any of them and say “this is clearly a clone of xxx”. After The Fall Puzzle is no exception to this rule. One might argue that it feels like Dungeon Raid with a Fallout setting, but one on one combat gives it a different feel than even that game. The combination of simple game play and the ability for the flow of the game to turn on a dime make for an intense, exciting experience.
You play a lone soldier in a post-apocalyptic world just trying to survive. In order to do so you’ll have to go up against and defeat one adversary after another. Each opponent gets tougher, and each time you start with a level playing field. You each have the same amount of health to start off, and you both have 0 attack modifier and 0 defense modifier. The match 3 board is where you get your supplies by matching 3 or more of the same item. This is one of those games where instead of sliding tiles back and forth you draw a line through all the tiles you want to match (they must be adjacent). When you’ve made your selection you’ll reap the benefit of whatever tile type you chose, and then it will be your opponent’s turn. If you fall below zero health, the game is over. If your opponent loses you move on to fight another villain with more health.
Items on the board do one of 4 things. Weapons like grenades and axes do direct damage to the opponent’s health. If you have an attack modifier, that value is added to the total damage done by the weapons. Any defense the opponent has goes away first before health is reduced. Things like helmets and camouflage pants increase your defense. Objects like target signs and multiple bullets boost your attack modifier. Finally, food, drink and medical supplies help you regain health. The values of each object can be found in the help screen, and if one of the items in your chain has a x2 modifier the point total for that haul is doubled. Each round has a different set of objects, and in fact if the board needs to be reset because there are no moves, the variety of objects will most likely change.
Even though there are “stats”, you’ll be disappointed if you’re looking for a deep RPG experience. I sometimes forget that myself as I think “boy it would be nice if the game did this or that”. In reality, though, the game has a nice balance of matching and basic combat mechanics that keep it simple without it getting old. The one thing I am a bit disappointed with is the fact that it has OpenFeint integration but no achievements. Leaderboards are nice, but only effective as more people get and play the game consistently. At least achievements give you something to earn on your own.
The visuals in ATF are pretty decent. The creatures and your soldier look really cool, and the objects are all easily discernable, except for a couple of knives that look a bit too similar. There aren’t a lot of effects, but there are nice little touches like blood when someone is injured or a flash of light upon being healed. The only thing that kind of gets on my nerves is the jittering of the box for whichever player has the focus. A nicely outlined box would have sufficed here.
I like the sound effects, but in some cases they are a bit too generic. For instance, every creature sounds the same when it gets hit. There’s also something really creepy about a skeleton swallowing liquids! On the plus side, at least each of the weapons has a unique sound to it. The music in ATF is really good. I’m not sure it fits the post-apocalyptic mood so much (at least not the in-game music), but it’s easy to listen to and doesn’t get overbearing.
After The Fall Puzzle is a great example of how a game doesn’t have to be revolutionary to still be fun. It’s the matching concept we know and love with a couple of twists, and it doesn’t try to be any game’s clone. The non-fantasy setting is a nice touch, and random boards and creatures make for a new experience every time you play. It might not have all the bells and whistles of its contemporaries, but it’s great for spending a few minutes here and there when you feeling like matching with a little bit more.