Gamers need not know the difference between a Lepidoptera and larva to have fun with Monarch the Butterfly King, the latest 3-in-a-row swapping game that challenges you to help the hapless monarch rescue his friends from the clutches of a mysterious wizard.
In this mystical adventure, you must travel across Celtic ruins to match flowers, create potions and rescue 16 butterflies — from the Zebra Nymph to the Striking Sapphire — throughout more than 150 unique levels.
The story, which is told through journal entries every few levels, may be a new twist for the genre, but many casual game fans will be familiar with the Monarch game-play concept. Popularized by games such as PopCap’s Bejeweled, but much closer in design to Reflexive’s very own Big Kahuna Reef, the goal of the game is swap adjacent tiles – in this case, flowers – so that at least three of the same tiles are aligned vertically or horizontally. Doing so causes the group to disappear, and thus allowing for more tiles to cascade onto the board. Some tiles are locked, and the only way to break them is by making a 3-in-a-row match with one of these tiles. Potion vials can be clicked on to explode surrounding titles or you can create a super explosion by creating a 3-in-a-row with an adjoining potion tile. You can also create a huge explosion with a bigger radius, ready to detonate when you need it, by making a group of five or more tiles of the same flower.
The level isn’t cleared, however, until all the dark plates have been removed, which appear behind many of the tiles. Therefore, while you can create and 3-in-a-row pattern to delete them from the board, it really doesn’t count unless you can remove all the plates. Lighter plates will also appear, which must be removed within a specific amount of time, and power-ups can be used when needed, such as a Poppy that can remove an unwanted flower from the board.
Oh, and don’t get me started about the frogs. You’ll have fun discovering what these amphibians can do to your game.
One of Monarch’s strengths is its replayability. Not only do players have more than 150 increasingly challenging levels to tackle, in either the Action or Relaxed mode (time limit or no time limit, respectively), but you can also unlock more levels in the Secret Gardens area, download more levels online (www.monarchthebutterflyking.com) or even create your own levels and share them with others. There’s even a mode called Mouse Party, that lets multiple gamers play on the same PC at the same time, so long as you have an extra mouse or two around.
3-in-a-row fans may have a hard time finding fault with Monarch as it offers multiple levels, modes and power-ups – though it’s hard to ignore how many of these types of games are available these days. Plus, Monarch does little to push the genre forward and very closely resembles Reflexive’s own Big Kahuna Reef. But there’s no denying the game is fun, challenging and hard to put down.