Remember the good old days of casual gaming, when every other title wasn’t a hidden object challenge, but rather Zuma-style marble-popper? The gang at developer Enkord obviously does, as the company has channeled its creativity into making Svetlograd – which clearly falls into the latter category – the most gloriously bonus- and destructible environment-laden title of its kind. Nonetheless, as hands-on play reveals, the approach tends to favor quantity over quality, ultimately leaving the outing a solid, if not truly eye-opening genre entry.
According to the briefly-introduced storyline, you own the eponymous city from which the game derives its name. For a time, all is prosperous and well. Then come the imps who suddenly invade, hassling the population and stealing the wealth they’ve amassed. Enter your newly-built cannon, and an adventure that sees you reclaiming your lost treasures while defending the settlement’s walls from future incursions.
If the setup sounds a bit familiar, that’s because so are most other elements of the escapade. The game primarily pays homage to standard genre conventions, though it also smartly adds support for destructible props (such as tree stumps and crystals) that affect your ability to aim and yield score-boosting goodies when removed.
The mission in a nutshell: Using a crossbow-like turret located at various points around the screen depending on the individual level, guard your home from encroaching chains of monsters. The trick to accomplishing this: Making matches of three or more adjacent, similarly-colored critters. (Which, naturally, disappear on contact, causing any like-hued beasties that bookend these gaps to be magnetically drawn together and hopefully creating massive combos in the process…)
Been there, done that right? Not quite, as progressing into the single-player campaign soon reveals. For example, you’ll quickly note the welcome presence of a shop, whereby additional performance boosts including larger clip sizes (up to four shots in reserve at once!), faster firing, etc. and one-shot abilities (e.g. imp-freezing extras, explosive fireballs and searing lightning bolts) can be purchased using coins collected clearing screens of debris. And, of course, that a variety of hidden relics such as lockets and Matryoshka dolls – aka Babushkas, those stackable, decreasingly-sized female Russian woodcuts – may also be discovered.
But really, lacking spectacular visuals and must-see plot developments, the real draw here is sheer excessiveness. In other words, while you’ll still enjoy the same finger-numbing formula as always from this sort of offering, you’ll also gain the benefit of whiz-bang pyrotechnics.
Granted, the obviously computer-generated graphics here are strictly of static, almost plastic-like quality (albeit easy on the eyes), and sound effects and music pure Super Nintendo-era fare. (Though seriously, what’s with all the ugly fonts?) However, where the game really shines is in how its designers go all out in terms of variety, letting you have access to bouncing ricochet plasma; devastating triple fire bolts; wildcard-type shots; burning flames; and fireworks which fill your monitor with neon-colored devastation.
If you haven’t already binged on a variety of other titles which ape this same basic setup, rest easy… Apart from the odd glitch (say, being able to fire an erroneously-colored imp if you click too quickly, even though it’s about to be eliminated from the queue since no matching targets remain on-screen), the outing handles well enough and may intrigue with its destroyable backdrops. However, for those of us who have done so, try before buying to see if the game suits your taste.
Neither the most memorable, nor forgettable of the Luxor-esque bunch, Svetlograd‘s clearly Russian-inspired humor and cultural inferences make it an acquired taste. Give it a shot and see if it’s your bag before making a firm commitment – given the seemingly timeless viability of the underlying concept, either way, we promise you won’t regret doing your homework.