Rumor has it the only thing more addictive than videogames is candy.
As for Sweetopia, a charming little reflex-intensive arcade puzzler that combines both? Let’s just say the title’s magically delicious, color-matching antics should prove a hit with enthusiasts hungry for finger-blistering fun.
A veritable smorgasbord of sugary, high-tech treats like adorable 3D visuals, slick 2D backgrounds, spunky sound effects and animated, brightly-colored playing pieces, fans of fast-paced challenges like Zuma will find much to love here.
The setup: You’re Kate Gainsborough, granddaughter of a famed inventor, renowned the world over for his genius – and eccentricity.
According to the plot, you’ve just inherited a mysterious Candy Factory known as Sweetopia, due to reopen after 20 years of inactivity. (Shades of Willy Wonka, one supposes…)
Just one problem: Adding anti-matter – your new, self-styled secret ingredient – to the first batch of goodies on the assembly line wasn’t smart. Now, glowing disco ball-like snacks known as Sherbert Sizzlers have gone atomically unstable, and threaten to bring the house crashing down should they collide.
Told through a series of catchy, comic book panel-type interludes, the story, which tracks Kate and lab-coated sidekick John’s ongoing struggle to save the business, perfectly sets the tone for what’s to come. Read: Hours of gloriously gooey, mouse-mashing fun.
Your objective – manning one or more candy-shooting cannons, located at various gunnery stations you can jump between dynamically – remove all bonbons from the board by making patterns of three or more similarly-colored sweets. Keeping those Sherbert Sizzlers from colliding is, of course, paramount.
Unfortunately for slackers, the title’s 70-plus boards, built from varying track patterns (laid out in corkscrewing lines, neat rows and flowing waves), which fan-powered carts push chains of candy along, rapidly fill with goodies. To successfully clear each level, you’ll have to maintain steady aim, keep your nerves about you and remain aware of several handy bonus features and obstacles the designers have built into each level. (Some familiar, some not so…)
- The ability and need to access multiple cannons in order to blast certain targets.
- Sweets ricochet off walls, allowing you to make split-second trick shots.
- Scrolling playfields expand in size slightly as you move your cursor about the screen.
- Power-ups may be collected by eliminating pieces of candy with special icons on them. Point multiplier bonuses, items that pause encroaching objects’ advancement and special weapons that let you better see where you’re aiming are just the beginning. You can also snag candy pieces that assume the color of adjacent sweets, ones which remove all candies of similar hue from play and even goodies that let you shoot sweet-smashing fireballs.
- Of 14 different candy types, six sport unique properties. Think Marshmallow Melts, which quickly dissolve, so they can only be shot at close-range targets. Banana Bangs – yellow and orange-starred treats that explode into three pieces when smashed against walls or machinery. And, of course, Giant Gums, much larger than most pieces and capable of taking up a lot more room.
- Machines like sweet swappers and sweet adders will randomly change the color of any candies that pass through them or add extra candies to nearby chains.
Don’t be fooled by the saccharine presentation, though.
As the manic orchestral score – which amusingly brings to mind visions of mischievous moments from virtually any classic holiday film – accompanying the title foreshadows, this is one frantic game. More so than most amusements of its ilk, Sweetopia demands you make fervent use of power-ups just to stay above water.
Thrill-seekers will appreciate the fly by the seat of your pants premise, even if some stages take their fair share of time to beat. (Partly due to intensity, though credit also must be given to the sheer number of chains of sweets which can be thrown at you at any time.)
Casual observers and mellow types won’t be nearly as enthralled, but hey… They’re hardly the sort who’d appreciate the pleasures of such a bona fide sugar rush to begin with. Available in two flavors – Story or Arcade, which involves popping a set number of sweets using only three lives – it’s the type of title best enjoyed in windowed mode, and short spurts.
Sweetopia should therefore find an audience with the hyper-caffeinated teen in all of us. Now: Anyone got a good diet plan?