Unwell Mel, the first game from Big Fish Games’ new studio in Vancouver, B.C., is the expanded version of the popular online match-3 puzzler that many fans have been waiting for. Without a doubt, it was well worth the wait. This intriguing, challenging version does not disappoint, and even adds a few changes and surprises that will delight players of all ages.

Poor Mel is unwell… so much so that he is the magnet for every disease known to man. As his doctor, Mel needs your help to assess, diagnose and clear away the gunk and bugs that have made him so ill. Dealing with maladies such as "Mel N. Cholia" to "Eyephelia Pain", you will scan Mel in the "Scan-O-Matic" diagnostic machine, purchase helpful power-ups from "Ed" the salesman, and have a blast while you cure Unwell Mel and send him into the world happy and healthy.

The game’s objective is to cure Mel by matching three or more items such as food, medical bags, and bugs inside of the grid until all ailments are cured. These matches will either destroy items, charge your power-ups, or earn you money.

The game can be played in timed or relaxed mode, and has 100 levels with varying numbers of boards to clear (ranging from two to five) in each level. The game map is in calendar form, and Mel has over 100 appointments with you over the next year, which results in 300 game boards to successfully complete.

In addition to matching items such as cupcakes and cheese, you will also match symptoms such as "Green gunk", "Double gunk" and "Crud". The final items include the bugs (germs) called, "Poptozoa", "Grabbits", "Hemogoblins" and "Virusites" each of which exhibits a unique behavior (when matched) that will either help or hinder in your quest. For example, a helpful germ would be the "Poptozoa", an angry little bug that when matched explodes and clears a large area of the gunk in close proximity. The "Grabbits" in contrast, can hinder your progress since when two are matched they grab onto each other and will not budge until a third "Grabbit" matches to the pair causing all three to disappear.

If you get stuck, an arrow will appear giving you a hint without a time penalty. There are eight power-ups available such as the "Shot to health", "Crazy leeches", and the "Cauterizer". These upgrades can be recharged by matching the medical bags on the board. I found the "Crazy leeches" to be my favorite as you purchase up to three leeches that take off in many directions back and forth quickly eating any items in their path. The "Big Fish Oil" drips down from one to three columns, destroying any gunk it touches below it.

Matching more than four items will earn you bonuses such as coins, mega pills, or a grant from the bank all of which have positive effects. The score is determined by items matched, power-ups used, and the amount of time you finished the level in.

Unwell Mel holds true to the formula that has made it such a hit with its online fans, but by no means is it an exact duplicate of its online predecessor. Transitioning from an online game played in community gaming rooms to a single player game is no easy feat. Big Fish Games did a wonderful job of deciding what to keep, change and let go.

For example, the "Scan-o-matic" is still in the game, but players will find they will now have to diagnose and treat hundreds of brand new ailments. The "Operation" style mini-game has been eliminated in favor of power-ups being purchased, upgraded and re-charged by matching medical bags. Many new bonuses items have been added such as "Bank grants", "Candies" and "Mega pill."

A funny storyline with cute characters, beautiful graphics, and a well balanced sense of challenge in the gameplay makes for a successful formula. I found myself laughing constantly at the creative and clever antics weaved throughout the game. From the names of the ailments to the jokes on the calendar, you will be drawn in.
 
Unwell Mel
is a great addition to any game collection. It is challenging, clever, and guaranteed to keep you laughing at Mel’s hilarious disorders such as "Luck B. Malady", "Ringaround A. Cholera" and "Midlife Psoriasis." Also, with easily over 30 hours of gameplay offered in two modes, this game is a great investment. Take your pick – relaxing gameplay or a fast-paced challenge – and helpUnwell Mel find his way to becoming healthy once again.

If you liked this game, try Deep Blue Sea4 Elements, and Glyph 2.