In real-life, the Galapagos Islands – a province of Ecuador located 500 miles west of the Ecuadorian coast, which lie directly on the equator – are famed for their exotic beauty and abundant natural life. (Just ask legendary naturalist Charles Darwin, whose theory of evolution originated with his 1831 voyage in the HMS Beagle to this very spot.)
But on desktops across America, the tropical paradise will soon be immortalized instead for the intriguing pattern-matching antics it plays host to in Oberon Game’s Galapago. Visually and conceptually inspired by the unique locale, this game adds several setting-appropriate twists to the 3-in-a-row puzzle swapper.
For starters, the game’s all about cool creatures.
Crabs, toads, butterflies, turtles, frogs, flying fish… these are but a few of the animals which fill playfields, taking the place of gems, gongs, coins and other commonly-encountered genre icons.
The action should be instantly familiar to anyone who’s ever laid hands on a mouse.
Your goal: By swapping any two adjacent squares located on the differently-shaped, tile-filled grids that adorn each stage, make horizontal or vertical rows consisting of three or more like animals. Matches are instantly removed from the board, and higher-placed titles fall down to fill in the gaps created, potentially causing huge combo-scoring chain reactions.
The kicker here – you don’t just explore three adventurous environments (beach, jungle, and volcano) for fun. You also collect and store specimens of the local wildlife as you go, which offers continued incentive to keep at the dozens of levels on offer.
So, how to load up on living trophies, you ask? Easy; just remove special tiles from the board.
Locked tiles can’t be budged, and prevent blocks on top of them from falling.
These pests can be eliminated by incorporating them into a three-tile match or through the use of a firepower (which destroys any one square on-command) power-up. Put a trio of electric toads together nearby, and the resulting blast of lightning that erupts from each end of the set, destroying everything in its horizontal/vertical wake, will also annihilate a locked block.
Cocoons, which look like colored gems, are harder to dispose of. To do so, you must make a match of a specific hue – red, purple, pink, yellow, etc. – in an adjacent square. Thankfully, the flip-flop power-up (swap any two critters, no matter their location) aids in this regard.
In a pinch, you can always call on the shuffler as well, which randomly reshuffles all times on the screen, hopefully to your advantage.
Power-ups are earned by quickly completing combos. Stages won by causing all cocoons, locked tiles and gold titles to disappear from the board.
Amusingly, you’re not always provided great opportunities to access special abilities from the get-go. Better still, the more time making patterns takes, the faster the power-up meters you’ve begun filling start to lose their juice. The most difficult challenges rob you of power-ups at the beginning, fill grids with cocoons and locked tiles and force you to frantically work to gain every inch.
Happily, following stage finishes, creatures come to life with a flourish, hopping and winging for the top of the screen as fast as their little legs/fins will carry them. Clicking on them before they vanish nets you extra points, so after tense sessions, there’s always a moment of pure button-mashing bliss.
Background noise is plentiful – picture gentle chirps echoing throughout the forest, or the lap of waves against the ocean. Sound effects too; there’s a musical tinkle every time tiles are removed, and tiles clatter against one another raucously.
Graphically, the title could prove a pleasant surprise as well. Backgrounds are hand-drawn and special effects (stars which shower down following combos, a time limit gauge that bubbles and shimmers) are plentiful. You’re even encouraged throughout the quest by a pair of shrunken heads located in the top-left of the display whose eyes roll and mouths move as they make funny noises.
Sporting the potential to offer hours of engaging play, Galapago has us psyched already. Pack your bags, slather on the suntan oil and get ready to hit the road soon; this could be the trip of a lifetime.