Match-three puzzlers aren’t exactly in short supply on the App Store, so it takes a unique approach — or at least some polished aesthetics — to make an impact in the crowded marketplace. Orba, a recent screen-clearing entry from Kieffer Bros, does a little of both, offering a simple experience that is ideally suited for the iPhone and wrapped up in a nice visual package.
Colored balls fill the screen in Orba, and it’s up to you to match at least three of a kind before clearing the set with a touch of your finger. As you clear sets from the screen, any balls lingering above that space will fall into the gap, giving you further opportunity to clear any resulting matches. Once you’ve exhausted all of the available matches on the screen, the next round will begin and any empty spots will be filled anew.
While this straightforward approach might seem simplistic, it actually reveals quite a bit of opportunity to put your strategic mind to work. Should you knock out the smaller sets of three or four balls, or try to line up larger sets for bigger scores? Will clearing sets from the bottom of the screen create better sets from the fallen orbs, or simply mess up the already-available ones at the top? Greater points are earned through clearing larger sets, but the biggest point totals are typically awarded for eliminating all orbs of a certain color from the screen. As such, you’ll have to consider all the options before making even a single move if you’re looking to set a high score.
And that’s really the goal in Orba— notching a high score and completing as many rounds as possible. The game ends when you run out of available matches, and Orba makes clearing orbs more difficult by introducing additional colors along the way. While a very different kind of puzzler than Microsoft’s casual hit,Hexic, the resulting experience in Orba is similar: as the screen fills up with additional colored balls, it becomes much more difficult to create large sets, let alone match three of a kind.
Thankfully, Orba‘s touch controls are both obvious and intuitive — as sets of colored balls appear on the screen, simply touch the set to remove it from the screen. A brief text tutorial can be viewed from the menu screen, but it shouldn’t take most players long to jump into the game and start clearing orbs. Aside from the options to mute sound effects and disable the highlighting of available matches, Orba lacks additional features, though a recent free update brought Facebook and Twitter score sharing into the mix, as well as different orb skins to shake things up.
Orba‘s simple color-matching approach may not be terribly exciting or reach any thrilling peaks, but the intuitive controls and pleasing aesthetics make it a solid iPhone option, especially at $0.99 (a free Lite version is also available). It’s a very sturdy foundation to build upon, and with luck, Kieffer Bros. will take the opportunity to expand upon it with additional play options in future updates or a fresh iteration.