I’ve always imagined a journey into space would be filled with cosmic bodies and stellar stuff, but unfortunately when it comes to Space Journey you only get to encounter tiles, tiles and more tiles in this match-three game with a unique 3D twist.

Your voyage starts as you take the role of a space captain off to find new worlds and, in the process, solve match-three puzzles. Within your spacecraft, you take control of a perpetually bouncing ball as you target three or more same-colored tiles to send them crumbling further into the abyss of space. There are a total of five areas to travel and as you progress into the game, you’ll see that each area is composed of new, lusher environments.

The mechanics of the game are simple. Your objective is to strike three or more matching tiles with the ball (by clicking on groups of tiles with the mouse) until you fill up the green meter on the top right of your screen. Your ball will keep on bouncing even though you’re not making any matches, however, and inefficient bounces cause you to expend little amounts of energy every time.

Basically, you have to keep on matching tiles while keeping your red energy bar healthy and full, because when your energy bar goes empty, your game will be over and you’ll only get a limited number of continues to keep your previous score going.

You’ll also notice a random pattern showing on the middle of your interface between the energy bar and match meter. This pattern is an optional way for you to rack up points besides the usual stack of tiles by making an exact replica of the pattern. Achieving pattern matches can get your more points and more points mean that you’ll earn bigger bragging rights right up the top score rankings of the game.

Variations on the basic gameplay include a timed game where aside from your energy bar, your match meter will also degrade, requiring you to match tiles faster to keep up with it; a puzzle game where you try to eliminate all the tiles by planning your ball strikes; and the reflex game where you’ll have to bounce from one tile to another immediately after achieving a certain color for that particular tile.

These game types present new challenges – especially the timed mode. Frankly, timed games extremely hard to beat most of the time, considering that you’ll have to contend with two degrading meters just to finish a level.

Space Journey isn’t lacking in power-ups to help you in your tile-matching quest. Power-ups range from the destructive bomb and sniperball, which help you destroy tiles faster and more efficiently, to ones that add energy and extra time to keep you playing as you avoid the dreaded game over screen. There’s also the super-destructive powerball, but just like any ultimate weapon, this power-up is very rare.

One thing that’s very frustrating about power-ups, though, is that they are only represented by rotating stars and are very random in nature. Some of them are unnecessary too, depending on the type of game that you’re playing. For example, on timed games, you really won’t need a randomize power-up because its animation will waste time and may even cause you to lose progress on your objective of filling up the elusive green meter.

The greatest feature of Space Journey is still its overall presentation and the unique 3D interface that it adds to classic match-three gameplay. While the 3D interface can seem confusing at first, over time, the game can get quite addictive as you plan the locations on where your ball will land next. The background graphics of the game are beautiful and I found the music to be very engaging as these elements change for the better after every stage.

On the downside, while I mostly love challenging games, some of Space Journey‘s levels are impossible to beat without retries, coupled with the fact that power-ups can also serve as a hindrance on some levels instead of providing help. But aside from points, contending with all that difficulty can also earn you trophies for achieving game milestones – an awarding achievement which may even get you playing through a few more levels or have a go at that last level you previously failed to beat.