Want to resuscitate somebody’s shattered life, match-three style? Rhonda is seriously depressed, and just can’t seem to shake those blues. It all began when her career crashed and burned. You see, for her whole life, she had a passion for restoring works of art. She was offered the biggest chance of her career, to restore a priceless painting. After 36 straight hours of work and a mishap involving decaffeinated coffee, she stumbled into the painting and destroyed it!
Fired by her boss and ridiculed by the media, Rhonda retreated to her deceased Uncle’s decrepit studio to wallow in self pity. Then, in a stroke of luck, she comes across a bizarre board game called Azuba, and a note claiming that it “senses your deepest desire or passion and assists you in reaching it.” Now all Rhonda needs is to find some willing customers with paintings to restore…
To play Restoring Rhonda, you must match three or more tiles by type and color in order to clear them from the board. This is section pretty much what you’d expect if you’ve played this genre before, and is arguably the “work” part of the game… Players can choose between classic swap and free swap modes. In classic swap, tokens must be adjacent to swap them, in typical match-three style. In free swap mode, you may switch tokens from anywhere on the board, making the game slightly easier and offering you maximum opportunities for creating large combos. You can switch your preference at any time.
There are two main objectives as you play. The first is easiest, to clear all of the gray stone tiles by making matches over them. This completes the round, and allows you to move to the fun restoration component of the game. It often seems like replacement tiles falling into place won’t make matches over stone tiles, unlike matches you make yourself, so you’ve got to be intentional to win.
The second objective is to earn the most coins possible, in order to earn the best tools for your restoration tasks (more on this later). This is a lot harder. Bigger matching combos mean better coins. Bronze coins are awarded for matches of 3, silver coins for matches of 4, and gold coins for matches of 5 or more. Note, you only earn coins for matches made over stone tiles – not for matches made in general. At the end of each round, your coins are tallied, and you will earn either a bronze, silver, or gold restoration tool.
While playing the match-three component of the game, you’ll encounter a few obstacles, and a handful of power ups. Obstacles include flipped tokens, which can be reversed by making matches next to them, and ice blocks, which can be thawed and revealed by making matches adjacent or including them. There are also blue double-break slots, which require two matches to be made over them in order to clear.
Power-ups are helpful for two reasons: In addition to helping clear the board, they also release gold coins, which help you meet your coin goal. The power ups include tweezer, cloth, brush, spray, and needle boosts, which remove variable amounts of tiles depending on their strength. Tweezer boosts remove individual tiles, while brush boosts allow you to clear paths. Cloth boosts erase all tiles of a certain type, and spray boosts remove tiles within a certain radius. Needle boosts clear random tokens over unbroken stone tiles off the board.
After you’ve beaten the match-three component of the round and received your tool (phew), you are ready to begin restoring a painting. This is the fun part of the game, where you get to do something different than the usual matching tasks. The paintings you’ll be restoring are real, though all are lesser known works of lesser known or obscure artists. They include “Sunflower” by Graham Andrew, “Blue Eyes” by Badman, and “David” by Scuzzo, just to name a few.
You’ll be given a choice of two customers at a time on the map screen, but ultimately you’ll need to assist all ten to win the game. The paintings the customers bring Rhonda are seriously trashed, needing multiple repairs. Gold tools are the most efficient at their job, while bronze tools mean more work for the player. Repairs involve doing things like dusting off grit with a brush (hold down the mouse button and hoover over dirty areas), and pulling out foreign objects with tweezers (click and yank your mouse in the right direction).
You’ll also need to repair scratches using a a spray can (spray over the scratches, and shake the mouse to recharge), and clean up spills with a cloth (rotate the mouse in the proper direction over the stain). The most challenging is repairing tears with a needle, which is done by poking holes in the properly marked spots and pulling the mouse to tighten the string.
After you’re finished, you’ll be given a grade of expert, professional, or amateur, which affects how much money you’ll earn and your final game score. Failing to refurnish a painting in time doesn’t hurt much – you just get amateur skill level and money – so don’t stress if some repairs take a while.
The in-game graphics are hand-drawn and pretty unique. They look strangely familiar, but I couldn’t put a finger on where I’ve seen that style before. There are plenty of jokes in the dialogue, and most are worth a chuckle. As for the music, it’s fairly typical, so you’ll hardly notice it. Sometimes it mysteriously disappears, but it usually comes back if you go to the menu screen and then return. A biggie to note – if you go to the map screen, your screen will be darkened, but the timer still runs! I couldn’t figure out an effective way to pause the game, which is a bummer if you’re like me and have occasional interruptions by real life, but thankfully the rounds are short to replay.
This is one game where the story and side games (such as the painting restoration tasks) really save the day. The match-three component of the game is just fine, but doesn’t offer anything new or really exciting. It’s easy to beat, with relatively few obstacles and power-ups, so don’t expect a huge challenge. In it’s favor, there are plenty of opportunities to design elaborate combos, especially if you play in free swap mode, so you can create your own challenges if you choose.
All in all, Restoring Rhonda is a moderately entertaining, five-hour match-three challenge with a simple and amusing story, and some unique art restoration tasks. It’s a good way to spend the afternoon, provided you don’t expect much replay value, and don’t mind a bit of repetition as you play.