Do you want to save the world? Alawar’s The Enchanting Islands is a match-3 puzzle game that has you casting spells to save the land from eternal darkness, and making your tile matches to gather elements needed for your restoration spells.
Once upon a time, the Enchanting Islands were completely enchanting, filled with light and color. Then an evil sorceress attacked the land, cursed everything she saw, and destroyed everything she touched. It looked like the end of the Enchanting Islands, until Alice, a nearby wizard, offered the people of the land a glimmer of hope. As Alice, you must restore the islands to their former glory by matching element tiles and beating evil boss monsters.
To play, you must swap adjacent tiles to make matches of three or more of a type. In order to beat a level, you need to gather all of the elements required, which are shown at the top of the screen. Sometimes you will need to clear all of the gold tiles, which can be done by making matches on top of them. Other times you may be asked to release a special item, like a potion.
To do this, you make matches underneath it until it reaches the bottom of the screen. For each board you play, you can earn gold, silver, or bronze medals, although this doesn’t really impact the game play. Because you advance based on casting spells and not by completing boards, there’s no way to replay a board for a better score. Boards take a long time to complete, generally 7-10 minutes each.
There are three power-ups, which are refreshed on a timer. The hammer breaks one block, and the bomb destroys tiles in a small area. The collector tool is really helpful. You can use to collect all elements of one type on the board. It also destroys chains, and clears the gold tiles underneath those elements. Bubble tiles are wild. The images inside alternate, and you can click to select the one you want.
Of course, there are also a bunch of obstacles. Chains can lock a tile into place, and you have to make matches with them in order to break them. Some items are double chained. Spiders can leave messy webs behind, which also trap tiles. You can destroy the spiders by making matches above or below them, and break webs by including those tiles in matches.
While it starts off simple, things can get quite hairy when you have multiple obstacles and goals on a single board. The layouts are involved. Levels are timed, but the timer is generally pretty generous and not too troublesome. If you lose, you can just replay.
In a new twist, you don’t actually advance by completing boards. Rather, you advance by casting spells. These spells require a certain number of “elements,” which you gather by playing the main game. For example, you might need 200 strawberries, 2 potions, and 50 gold tiles. Once you have enough elements to buy the spell upgrade, you play a short hidden object board to find the elements hidden on the screen. After you’ve beaten it, you get the upgrade.
There are several upgrades to unlock in each chapter. When you’ve unlocked them all, you advance to the next island.
Before you move to a new island, you have to beat the boss battle. This is really cute, and something different. You make matches of three or more, as usual. However, there is a monster scrolling around at the bottom of the screen. You need to make your matches over his head, in order for the tiles to fall on him and do damage.
Some tiles are better than others. Leaves, for example, just float off and do no damage. Bigger items like oranges do more damage. This is my favorite part of the game, and would make a nice stand alone.
The game features upbeat fantasy-inspired music, which really sets an enjoyable and relaxing mood during the game play. The length is good, so you can expect at least 5 hours of game play. The game itself is very smooth and polished.
During the regular chapter play, things can be a bit repetitive. The boss battles are the most entertaining, since they break the monotony. Because of the repetition, it’s difficult to sit and play in one sitting. This is the sort of game that’s more suitable for playing in short spurts.
There are only 3 power ups, making The Enchanting Islands less complex than many other match-3 games. The artwork is very nicely done, but repetitive. The tiles change slightly as you advance in the game, but you’re still mostly dealing with fruits and flowers. It would have been nice to see more variety.
The Enchanting Islands isn’t particularly original or complex, but it features everything you’d expect from a match-3 game. The artwork is bright and colorful, the music is fun, the rules are clearly presented and simple, and there’s a fair amount of opportunity to form strategies as you play. It’s entertaining if you’re looking for a game to play during coffee breaks.