Tag Archives: Candy Crush Saga

Frozen Free Fall: Snowball Fight gets the cold shoulder

gd disney frozen-free-fall-little-kristoff imps

Look, I like Frozen well enough, but a part of me wishes that other Disney and Pixar franchises got the same amount of love and fanfare that this one is currently riding, such as The Incredibles and A Bug’s Life, of which the latter at least gets a cute, interactive movie inside the Tree of Life in Animal Kingdom. Frozen is basically taking over the world (and Norway-land in Epcot), retail shelf by retail shelf, as well as seeping its way into videogame consoles through insidious free-to-play gem-matching microtransaction machines that I, for some reason or another, can’t resist checking out.

I began playing Frozen Free Fall: Snowball Fight on the Xbox 360 a month or so back, but then Fallout 4 came out and I grabbed an Xbox One and haven’t had much reason to turn on my older console since then other than to delete some downloaded games and move save profiles to…the cloud. Thankfully, much like TT Games’ LEGO romps, you can find Frozen Free Fall: Snowball Fight everywhere you turn, and so I downloaded it once more on my newest home console to give it another go and see if I could enjoy myself without having to spend any moolah. Paul’s golden rule is to never spend any moolah.

Frozen Free Fall: Snowball Fight is a match-three puzzle game. Y’know, Bejeweled…but with Disney’s characters for dressing. Or maybe the closer comparison is actually Candy Crush Saga. You are essentially matching like-colored gems and jewels to clear lines, create power-ups, and trigger combos for high scores. There are other elements at work, like trying to get specific items to the bottom of the level, a challenge I loathed in Hexic. Some levels have gems covered in frost, which can only be destroyed by clearing the gems twice. Lastly, some levels are timed, meaning the pressure is on to spot combos and keep things moving, especially near the bottom of the playing field, ensuring that a high score avalanche happens swiftly.

Ironically, I hit a wall right around the same spot as I did in the Xbox 360 version, which is in the level 20s or so, where Frozen Free Fall: Snowball Fight ramps up the difficulty significantly, but begins limiting the free power-ups that definitely help when you only have a few moves left and desperately need to see that crown drop down, not-so-subtly nudging you towards purchasing them with real-life cash. The pricing scheme is not friendly, asking $0.99 to add 15 seconds to a timed round, which, in reality, probably gets you four or five more moves. For some reason, I’m hardwired to try and play these free-to-play titles without using any of the extra abilities and items, to know if they are doable without them, like mostly in Pokemon Shuffle.

Also, you are given a limited number of hearts when you begin Frozen Free Fall: Snowball Fight, with the chance to win more by logging in every day and selecting a random tile to flip over. I think I started with 16 hearts, and every time you lose a match or do not complete the required objectives, you lose a heart. I’m down to 11 now. Once you run out, unless you win more through the daily log-in thingy, you’ll have to purchase more to keep playing. Spoiler alert: hearts aren’t cheap. Well, that sucks. Still, I’ve found an annoying way around this annoying feature, and that is this: quit the level before it is finished and restart the game, and you’ll have the same number of hearts as before. Which means once you realize things are going poorly or you aren’t going to hit that high score tier, simply exit out and return again to try once more. Not the best way to manipulate the system, but it does work (for now).

There are some other problems at work in Frozen Free Fall: Snowball Fight, and they fall under the graphics and sound departments. Both are lifeless and feel like afterthoughts. This is Bejeweled with a light coating of Frozen stuff, like an overworld map of Arendelle for selecting levels and these strange, barely animated versions of the characters that simply stand off to the side and watch as you make moves. Every now and then they clap, but not because you did something right; sometimes they clap when you lose. It’s on a cycle. The music is of a generic orchestral style, but not very memorable, which is ironic when there isn’t much to begin with and it repeats on each and every level you play.

The film version of Frozen took the world by storm, though I didn’t end up seeing it until many, many months later. Once I did, I got it; there’s strong, adventurous characters and an unbelievably catchy soundtrack to bop your head and pretend you aren’t singing along to. There’s warmth in all the frigidness, and a triumph to see through to the credits. Unfortunately, you’ll find none of that in Frozen Free Fall: Snowball Fight.

Gotta match ’em all in Nintendo’s free-to-play Pokémon Shuffle

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Like sand dunes eroding over time, Nintendo is slowing dipping its toes into the free-to-play market in an attempt to see what all the hubbub is about, as well as milk fans for money. Now, I never did download Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball, which had a unique take on bartering for cheaper mini-games, but it sounded like, at the very least, a fresh take on giving players something free to play while enticing them to drop some dollar bills for a bit more to experience. I’ve also not given Steeldiver: Sub Wars a look, so I can’t speak for how that submarine-steered competitive multiplayer thing faired. Naturally, the first free-to-play plunge from Nintendo I’m interested in trying out is Pokémon-related.

Pokémon Shuffle is another take on the “match three” puzzle formula, but instead of lining up similar looking gems or flowers or pieces of underwear, you’ll be matching cutesy disembodied heads of all your favorite–and probably some of your non-favorite–pocket monsters. You use the stylus and touchscreen to make this happen, and the game, thanks to its vibrant, colorful look and simplistic presentation, moves at a rapid clip. Basically, you’re matching three or more heads to deal damage to whatever Pokémon you are fighting, and different types of Pokémon to do more damage by way of a weakness system. Once you beat the Pokémon, you get a chance to capture it, and the capture percentage is upped a bit by how many moves you have left by the end of the battle; of course, you could always pay to up that guarantee of a capture. Strangely, some common Pokémon have really low capture rates, which doesn’t exactly line up with the, um, fiction of games like Pokémon Y and Pokémon White 2.

The free-to-play gating begins immediately once you get past the tutorial bits. See, there are three types of currency to pay attention to: Hearts, Jewels, and Coins. The core currency is Jewels, which you can buy for $0.99 each, with a small discount for if you buy in bulk. You can then exchange Jewels for Hearts. Hearts let you play one level one time (win or lose), and you can have a maximum of five total, with one reappearing every 30 minutes. Coins are a sub-currency used to purchase one-use power-ups before a battle begins, and from what I can tell, the majority of the power-ups are way too expensive for what little effects they cause.

I think Pokémon Shuffle‘s biggest misstep is in its Hearts. Also known as the Energy system when it comes to these things. Levels generally take one to two minutes to complete, possibly a bit longer if you are really studying the board for key combos or up against a really tough encounter, like Mew, which is the random event Nintendo’s running for the next three weeks since launch. That means, especially early on, you can use up your five Hearts in five minutes and then end up having to wait two and a half hours to play five more times in a row. Hexic for Windows 8 phones, which I found pretty addicting, was similar to this, but you only lost a chance to play again if you lost a battle/level; if you won, you kept going, riding it like a pro. I once downloaded Candy Crush Saga, but only played it once or twice before deleting, meaning I can’t tell you how it compared to this–but all in all, Pokémon Shuffle seems a little too eager to immediately put the player in a standstill and ask for an investment.

I will never drop any real money into Pokémon Shuffle, but as something I’ll pick up and play once or twice a day for maybe ten minutes at most, it doesn’t offend me. Too much. I can happily ignore all its free-to-play tactics and begs, though I do wish Nintendo took a chance to thank its long-time fans and incorporate some kind of connection with the various other Pokémon games for the Nintendo 3DS. I mean, my copy of Pokémon Dream Radar is collecting digital dust, so it would’ve been nice to keep that train a-chugging. Or, heck, use those Play Coins to help purchase extra hearts or Great Balls.

Again, Pokémon Shuffle doesn’t really bother me too much because I’m not investing anything into it other than a small chunk of my day, but if I really want my match three fantastical animal heads fix, I should probably wait for Pokémon Battle Trozei, releasing next month on the eShop for $7.99. Think about how many Hearts that could buy you in Pokémon Shuffle. Here, I did the math for you–$7.99, due to the odd way they are priced, could get you 6 Jewels, which could then be turned into 30 Hearts. So, the choice is yours–$7.99 to play thirty times or play as much as you want. I know, this is a tougher choice than trying to name an Audino for the umpteenth time.