Tag Archives: match three

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Sparkle 2

I never played Sparkle 1, if it was even called that, but I can’t imagine it being too different from Sparkle 2, today’s game du jour for being on the chopping board. I feel like I’m making a good dent on this sojourn of mine to rid myself of all these PlayStation Plus titles, but there are still so many left on my PlayStation 3 to go through. Woe is me, I know. How I must suffer at the hands of all these freebies of varying quality.

Anyways, Sparkle 2 is a marble shooter action puzzle game–woah, that’s way too many adjectives–that tasks you with eliminating snake-like lines of colored balls by matching three of them to make them vanish. Yup, it’s a match three, but the twist of the lines moving along a path helps keep the experience somewhat fresh. I say somewhat because, well, there’s only so much that can be done with a match three style game. I dip into these every now and then, such as with Tumblestone, Frozen Free Fall: Snowball Fight, and Adventure Pop, but never hang around for too long. Actually, the only one I truly continue to check in on these days is Gems of War, and that’s probably more because it reminds me so much of Puzzle Quest, where I really got hooked.

Evidently, Sparkle 2 comes with a story, a reason to match all these differently colored marbles. See, a long time ago, five enchanted keys were created. The keys were scattered around mysterious lands and still remain undiscovered. Many have come to find them, but alas, so far, all have failed. Now is your chance to shine and find these keys and unlock their secrets. It’s either that or join the endless ranks of souls forever trapped within this fantasy land. It’s honestly not much to go off of, but it is at least something, a thin carrot on a stick to chase after. That said, after finding two keys, I still don’t really follow the plot one bit.

I played Sparkle 2 for at least four hours, finishing about thirty or so levels and finding two of the five missing keys. How do I know I put that much time into it? Well, one, there’s an in-game timer, and two, you get a Trophy for playing that long. Go me. The game’s controls are thankfully tight, which they need to be if you are going to try and shoot marbles as quickly as possible at moving targets. There’s no guide though, so you have to do your best to line things up, and some power-ups help more than others. I really liked the one that turned into a bunch of fireflies to clear out multiple balls at once.

Well, I’ll fire one more colored ball, this time at Sparkle 2 itself, eliminating it from my PlayStation 3 and making room for whatever PS Plus game is next to cross my path.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

Matching four of a kind in Gems of War is indispensable

Gems of War f2p gd impressions

Early on during my Nintendo DS days, I played a lot of Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords, as well as Mario Kart DS. But more Puzzle Quest than anything else. It successfully combined role-playing, strategy, and puzzle elements in one addictive pill to swallow, and threw in a fun, if cookie-cutter storyline to follow. At some point, I showed it to my sister D, and she got hooked, asking to play any time I came down. Eventually, I just left the cartridge with her since she could play it on my mother’s Nintendo DS easier–and faster–than waiting for me to visit every few weeks. Anyways, when I was into it, I was into it, and Puzzle Quest was this nearly perfect storm to kill fifteen minutes and feel like you were accomplishing something and having fun, marching down a path.

Hold on. I just pulled out my copy of Puzzle Quest and popped it into my Nintendo 3DS. Looks like my save data is still there, as well as my sister’s. My character’s name is Ferpina, and she’s a tough-looking, dagger-wielding, redheaded warrior at level 50. Oh my. When I load up the current mission, it’s called “The Final Battle,” and a message says that I managed to escape from Lord Bane’s clutches, and that I must try again. That means either I never actually beat Puzzle Quest or I did beat it and this is the last moment it saves your progress. Ha, I just tried taking on Lord Bane and he whipped my butt hard, so I have to imagine I never saw credits roll.

Well, good news and bad news–the developers behind Puzzle Quest are back (505 Games), and their new game is just as appetizing and fulfilling as before, if strikingly similar. In Gems of War, you create an avatar–I’m a cat lady warrior–and then match gems to power your array of spells, as well as match three or more skulls to deal direct damage to your opponent’s team of enemies. If you take out each troop on the opposing side, you’ll gain gold and souls, both of which are used to buy more soldiers, as well as level up the ones you got. Rinse and repeat until you take hold of all the kingdoms, of which there are currently fifteen. It’s quite close to what Puzzle Quest was, but with some free-to-play stuff here and there, though none of it has been bothersome or in the way at this point.

For Gems of War, I’ve been sticking to a specific team, really enjoying the way these troops interact and gel with each other. In my first slot is either a red mana or yellow mana weapon (I keep flipping between them) that does damage to a single enemy. Then I have a Boar Rider, currently strengthened up to level 7, followed by a Templar for boosting shields, and a Golem for exploding skulls and reducing enemy armor. Boar Rider is maybe my favorite troop, as its ability is to clear out an entire row, deal damage to an opponent’s troop, and then take a free turn afterwards. If you are playing strategically, you can use this ability to gain multiple turns in a row and keep the attack pressure on your enemy.

Still, I mash buttons during the intro and outro “dialogue” sequences, which exist only to give you a story-related reason to do battle. It’s fine, but fluff, and I’m never very invested in any narrative here. I just want to do all the quests in a kingdom and then claim it as mine. I also feel like there are perhaps too many choices when it comes to troops and you can waste a bunch of souls leveling up the ones that don’t matter or aren’t great for long-term play, which is why I’m rocking a team of one common and two rares because that’s all I’m comfortable experimenting with. Some of the rarer cards look neat, but aren’t immediately easy to use.

Perhaps my favorite thing about Gems of War is that, so long as you don’t go spending all your coins like a kid without a care, you can play duel after duel after duel. There’s no energy system here to stop you from playing. Each duel costs 50 gold to start, and that’s easy scratch to have and hold on to, even if you end up losing a few. Other free-to-play games bum me out in comparison to Gems of War, simply because they make it a struggle to even play and make progress. Not in this realm though.

Also, allow me to list what other match-three (or try hard to match four for better results!) games I’m currently juggling alongside Gems of War:

  • Frozen Free Fall: Snowball Fight
  • Pokémon Shuffle
  • Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition

Okay, three. That might not seem like many, but it is when they are all at once similar and dissimilar to each other. It’s like trying to eat four cheese sandwiches at the same time, but each one contains a drastically different tasting cheese that lingers on your palette and actually begins to affect how you taste the other delicious sandwiches. Also, you like cheese, so this is one of those first-world problems, where it’s only really a problem if you analyze it too deeply. If you have a better analogy than this, please leave it in the comments.

Well, back to matching I go. These skulls aren’t going to combine themselves. See you after I’ve conquered every kingdom in the realm, leveled up every troop I like using (sorry, Zombie), and decked out a variety of teams to their fullest capacity, each capable of handling a number of situations tossed before them, whether it’s a boss fight or simply trying to stay alive as long as possible in an arena battle. In short, “To (Gems of) waaaaaaaaaar!”

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.

Pokémon Shuffle’s Mega Glalie is bad game design

Pokemon Shuffle Mega Glalie is the worst

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was stuck on Pokémon Shuffle‘s level 120 against Mega Glalie, and that everything was fine because, no matter what, my pocket monsters were continuing to gain XP and grow stronger and, without a doubt, I’d eventually have a team powerful enough to conquer the annoying, Generation III ice-type levitating face and move on to level 121. Astoundingly, that hasn’t happened yet, and I’ve been, more or less, using all five of my hearts against the bloody ripper every night before bed. I’m sorry to say, but this is some really bad game design, and I can’t recall the last time I hit such a visible wall in a game.

I’m not the only one struggling. If you type both “Mega Glalie” and Pokémon Shuffle into Google, you’ll quickly get returns for posts about people unable to beat the beast, people beating it using every item and Jewel they had and only then crawling past the finish line, and people puffing their chests out like mighty lions, claiming to have defeated Mega Glalie easily, using no items at all. Uh huh. Here’s a handful of confetti. If you are to use items, which are, let me remind y’all, quite costly, many are suggesting Complexity -1s, Mega Starts, and Disruption Delays.

For me, there’s certainly a stubborn drive behind my desire to beat Mega Glalie without any items, and this is not at all to prove I am a big macho man and super skilled at matching severed Pokémon heads. I conquered all 119 Pokémon levels before Mega Glalie without using any items. Perseverance, patience, and picking the right team was all it took, and so it bugs me deeply that the same strategy simply cannot be employed here. The problem is that, within four or five turns, Mega Glalie begins freezing entire columns, two at a time, often locking you out of sweet–and powerful–combo chains, forcing you to chip away at its health until the board resets or you run out of moves. Even with a team of level 6 Pokémon, the farthest I’ve dropped Mega Glalie’s health is down to about 25%.

This level is designed for you to spend money on (either in-game currency, which takes a good while to stock, or through extra turns via Jewels bought by real-life money), unless you hit the biggest luck streak of the century. Truthfully, I was enjoying Pokémon Shuffle, which just celebrated some 2.5 million+ downloads, when it kept progressing, even if just little by little. Play a few matches every night, unlock more to play the next night. Heck, Nintendo is even adding in more levels to the base set, upping the count to 180. That’s sixty more for me to get through…or potentially never see.

I may have to try an item against Mega Glalie. Call it desperation, call it despair, call it giving in–I don’t care. I have a free copy of Disruption Delay in my inventory, acquired from…uh, doing something cool, so maybe I’ll give that a go tonight. However, if the match goes just as poorly as all previous attempts, I will forever be bitter against using items and will refrain from ever experimenting again, deleting this free-to-play Pokémon game and focusing instead on that other free-to-play Pokémon game. That one, so far, hasn’t raised any walls yet to impede my journey.

If you have any good tips on taking down Mega Glalie, please do share. If you beat this level with your eyes closed and one hand behind your back, kudos for you.