It was never really my thing before the smartphone / iPhone revolution, but these days it seems like one of my gaming passions that almost rivals my love for scrolling shooters is the match 3 game. Thankfully it seems that in recent months developers have taken a step back and realized that instead of mashing genres with something else to create a “unique” match 3 game, they needed to take the concept back to its roots and find a way to expand on the core game play without introducing non-match 3 elements to spruce things up. One recent entry in this “revitalization” effort is the game Color Swing from Astalavista Game Development. Conceptually it adds a fun new twist to the genre, but in execution it has one flaw that keeps it from being the next great thing.
The basic premise is simple – match 3 or more tiles of the same color. To highlight a group you tap on it, and to finalize your selection you tap it again. The caveat here is that the playing field isn’t flat, nor is it a cube. It’s actually a cylinder that has multiple levels of tiles on it. So, not only do you have to worry about keeping track of a revolving surface, you also have to be cognizant of the depth of tiles, because even though you can match across multiple depths there has to be a continuous path between all tiles in a group. This actually makes for some really interesting strategy, especially when it comes to logic mode where you only “get what you get” when you start the game.
Speaking of modes, the game has two different modes of play. The first is Logic, where you’re presented with a completely full cylinder and you have to get rid of as many tiles as you can. This mode is actually rather slow paced and requires a bit more thought, but it can be rather rewarding. You also get a bit of help in this mode in the form of two buttons – one allows you to change the color of a tile and the other lets you delete tiles. Keep in mind that these actions reduce your score, however. The other node is Dynamic. In this mode the cylinder starts with one layer of tiles, and starts adding on layers tile by tile while you’re trying to get rid of tiles. Once you’ve cleared a certain number of tiles your level goes up, and tile placement gets faster. I prefer this mode, but unfortunately this is where you mainly see the “flaw” I mentioned in the beginning.
So what is this “flaw” I keep bringing up? The cylinder is comprised of several circles, each of which can be rotated separately by dragging one finger along the circle you wish to rotate. To rotate the entire cylinder you execute a two finger drag. If you want to shift the perspective of the cylinder a bit you can tilt the device, allowing you to see “inside” the cylinder to an extent. The tilt rotation can be locked down by clicking the lock button in the lower right corner of the screen. These controls all work well and seem pretty responsive. The problem comes when actually attempting to select tiles for matching. Usually the first tap to select a group works okay, but once in a while it seems like that isn’t even recognized. However, quite often the game doesn’t recognize my second tap, especially when the levels get faster. As a result I often have to tap 3, 4 or more times to clear a group of tiles away, and sometimes in between the first and nth tap a tile of a different color pops up and blows my match. You can see why this wouldn’t be such an issue in logic mode, but in dynamic mode it can be downright devastating.
Though there’s not a whole lot going on, Color Swing still looks pretty sharp visually. The cylinder looks good as it’s spinning around, and there’s just enough of a sparkle when you clear a match so the playing field doesn’t feel dead. The sound effects serve their purpose mainly in terms of letting you know when you’ve tapped something that doesn’t constitute a match. There is no music, and while you can play your iTunes collection, the game really needs some built in music, especially for logic mode.
Color Swing puts a fresh new spin on the match 3 concept. The game looks good and for the most part plays well. I so want to give this a “Recommended”, but the fact that I have so much difficulty at times double tapping matches prevents me from doing so. I still suggest that you check it out, however, because you might have a better experience on your device than I’ve had with mine.