Rich and varied as Greek mythology is, our heads couldn’t help but fill with visions of magical treasures, hidden temples and stunning supernatural beasts at the sound of this new tile-matching puzzler’s name. Unfortunately, despite offering two highly distinct styles of play and a wholly attractive range of backgrounds, visuals and lilting symphonic tunes, it was soon discovered that the real Secrets of Olympus are as follows.
One: The title moves at an incredibly leisurely pace, doles out the truly exciting rewards sparingly and offers little that you haven’t seen before from other, equally family-friendly brainteasers. Two: That there’s no featured storyline presented, as you simply move between stages clearing them of colored blocks, destroying the chance for any empathy or attachment to develop between players and the on-screen antics. And three: Because of all these niggling worries, coupled with a few technical bugs, this is a title that – while perfectly functional and appealing – is hardly likely to set the casual gaming world aflame.
But first, let’s rewind for a second. Starting out, you’re simply given the choice between a pair of game modes (Adventure or Relaxed), and an equal number of play styles, including Switch and Click. Over 150 levels are offered in each of these latter categories, so you’re guaranteed to get some value for your money. Switch puzzles are just what they sound like… You simply select a pair of tiles to swap their position on a block-filled grid, with sets of similarly-branded stones disappearing when 3 or more come into direct contact.
Click puzzles, on the other hand, challenge you to click on existing groups of tiles of equal or larger size, which vanish when selected. In all cases, the goal is merely to remove all colored squares (e.g. wooden- and silver-hued selections) from play by making matches atop them.
Added challenge comes from commonly-utilized sources as you move through the adventure, choosing which type of level you’d like to face next between each new challenge. For instance, rocks which block off areas of the board and must be destroyed by making matches adjacent to them; locks that bind certain tiles and can only be broken by constructing the proper pattern; and medusa tiles that create more colored stones when accidentally broken.
Then again, working to your favor are bonuses like dynamite (created by making combos of 5 or more tiles) and, of course, powerful magic spells. Some of our favorite incantations include lightning (which destroys an entire vertical row) or giant fists that smash whole sections of the board, earned by powering a meter which fills faster the more, and bigger, matches you make.
While a set time limit on every level is supposedly your biggest antagonist, we sadly struggled more with unexpected issues. For example, empty squares (which you can’t swap tiles into) that won’t fill until certain blocks are first removed. Stages of such complex design that even early on, it can take a painfully long time to remove all colored stones from them. Bonuses that excite by offering playable mini-games like hangman, only to disappoint with strange and difficult challenges, even on beginning levels (ever heard of a fruit called a “pummelo?”… yeah, us neither). And, surprisingly, weird program glitches that caused one of the computers we tested on to emit constant system error-style beeping sounds over its internal speaker.
Most upsetting of all though was simply how there’s little driving you forward beyond the promise of new spells, unlocked by breaking enough key blocks. Alas, these extras prove few and far between, and special effects not of such stunning quality as to make you want to sit there and suffer between overly lengthy stages for any great period of time. Don’t get us wrong – from a basic mechanical, layout and handling standpoint, the game works perfectly well, and features a host of workable elements that’ll keep diehard fans of cerebral outings intrigued. Nonetheless, a few design tweaks (e.g. adding in a plot, spicing up stages with more moving parts and power-ups, being faster to dole out lavish bonuses, etc.) would’ve made all the difference.
This being the case, ask yourself: Do you have to own every tile-swapping head-scratcher that comes out? If so, dig in – there’s plenty of challenge waiting. If not, well… let’s just say the Secrets of Olympus are best left to less experienced, and more innocently forgiving, types.