Saturday, September 8, 2012

Linkies [Visual Dreams] - $0.99

Match-3 Puzzlers are, like almost every genre in the AppStore, a dime a dozen these days. However, like we’ve been seeing lately, the genre still has some new life in it. This time, Visual Dreams is taking the Match-3 gameplay a step further with their new release, Linkies, a Match-3 Puzzler with a strong emphasis on Physics-Based gameplay, and why no one has done this yet is beyond me as the two genres really do mix together extremely well. 

Linkies tells the story of a robot from the Dark Ages who’s awoke, spewing blocks of various shapes and colors all over the Linkies beautiful world. Now it’s up to you to clean it all up. There are two modes of gameplay, Story Mode and Blitz Mode, but the core gameplay in each is identical; Match 3 or more blocks of the same color to clear them from the gameplay area. 
Story Mode has 90 levels spread across 5 different worlds, while Blitz Mode is endless and goes until blocks reach the top of the screen.  In Story Mode, you’re awarded up to 3 stars in each level, based on how quickly you can complete the stage, as well as coins throughout the level. You’re able to use these stars and coins in the game’s shop to purchase upgrades and power-ups. Once you unlock the power-ups, they’ll be available for use in Blitz Mode.

Now, what really sets Linkies apart from other Match-3 games, it’s physics-based mechanics. In the game, there’s 4 different colored blocks that you’ll need to try and clear out of each level. Once you clear out a group of blocks, the blocks on top of them fall down, filling in the hole that you’ve created. This, by itself, doesn’t sound too interesting, but when you throw in the level designs and mechanics, the gameplay can get pretty nice. Some levels include moving platforms that mix up the blocks, others have edges that squeeze together, pushing the blocks in tight. Basically, the blocks will be constantly mixed up throughout each level, meaning that you’ll need to be quick when creating your matches. Once you add in the game’s power-ups and upgrades, bringing bombs, cluster chains, mystery shapes, grenades, slow motion, X-Ray, color bombs and more into the mix, interesting is definitely one way to explain it all. 

The shop is split up into two sections, Upgrades and Consumables. Upgrades are purchased with the stars that you earn at the end of each level while Consumables are purchased with coins. Everything is reasonably priced, but, like most other games with shops, there are IAPs for both currencies. However, you’re not required to purchase anything extra in order to progress through the whole game, or to unlock anything special, so it’s set-up more like a donation if you’re enjoying the game, and want to help support the Visual Dreams studio.

The graphics and animations in Linkies are very well done. Each of the 5 different worlds has their own beautifully crafted environment, the pond, field, stream, sewer, and resting place of the block spewing robot. Though the environments are very nice, they are also fairly dark, leaving the extremely vibrant blocks stand out above everything else. Visual Dreams stated that they let their graphic designer ‘go crazy’, and it definitely shows. The animations are smooth, and add to the gameplay, with the explosions, connecting lines, and everything else done very well, and mixing in with the physics of the game perfectly. 

GameCenter integration is included, with a leaderboard for Blitz Mode and 28 achievements. Blitz Mode will constantly ask for you to log into Facebook in order to show the leaderboards and shop, which can get pretty annoying until you do. If you don’t have FB though, you will be unable to purchase consumable items before each Blitz game, which is pretty frustrating. Though, it’s not required for you to submit scores to GC, and clicking on the ‘Leaderboard’ GC icon at the top of the page will take you to the GC board. Aside from that, which is my only real complaint, Linkies is a great Match-3 game. Priced at $0.99 and being Universal, if you’re a fan of the genre, the physics-based mechanics definitely make Linkies stand out, and with the endless Blitz mode and 90 Story mode levels, there’s plenty of content to play through. Visual Dreams has definitely revived my love of Match-3 gameplay. 


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