I have been known to play Bejeweled for hours, so you might say I have a great affinity for well-designed match three games. (Of course, I like shiny jewels and precious gems too… what girl doesn’t?) Mind Juice Media has built a match-3 game around objects that women like me enjoy in Charmed.
The graphically pleasing, colorful little charms are fun and endearing shapes to play with as you endlessly search for matches. In fact, sometimes it does seem like you’re playing without an end, but let me explain the good things about this game before I delve into the flaws.
First of all, you’ll love the sounds and music that accompany this matching mania. The soundtrack is perfectly blended with the “success” sound of the matching, making you feel engaged and relaxed at the same time. The sound design is truly “charming.” The gameplay is like a combination of Bejeweled and Jewel Quest where you have to not only match three objects by swapping two adjacent pieces, but also you have to clear certain tiles behind the items. But that is where the comparison ends.
Charmed introduces new twists to the match-3 genre. Sometimes, you’ll discover “locked” tiles, and under these locks, new objects will not fill in. So, you find yourself with a playing field that is strewn with holes (empty tile slots). You have two choices to solve the problem. First, you can move adjacent tiles into those empty spaces to create new matches.
Second, you can tilt the iPhone (from landscape to portrait or vice versa) to watch several of the charms spill into the empty spaces. The resulting adjustment of the charms always creates new matches not possible in the previous configuration. This creative integration of the accelerometer feature of the iPhone device is truly ingenious. And it definitely adds a new dimension to match three gaming on the iPhone.
In addition to the tilt feature, Mind Juice Media also introduces the idea of a “freeze meter” into the mix. When you match three or more snowflake charms the freeze meter comes on and you’re free to match any two game pieces. Enacting this special feature almost feels like you’re cheating. With the gameboard as large as it is in Charmed, I’ll take all the help I can get.
Other than those special features, Charmed is pretty much like most other match-3 games with one big exception: When you start playing you expect to complete the first level in a reasonable amount of time, but it just keeps going and going. This gets worse as the game progresses. By the time you reach the fifth level there are so many fixed gold tiles that you have to clear, and the time it takes to finish the level is so long that it becomes tedious, that the game is suddenly not fun at all. Players need to be rewarded . . . often! Making me wait forever to complete a level discourages me. While it might not bother some match-3 purists, I consider this genre to be one of my favorites – and I grew tired as I continued to play, rather than staying excited to continue – all because I felt like I was playing too long without a break.
Even though there are some not-so-charming features in Charmed, I found it to be a good game overall. I give the developers high marks for innovation. It’s difficult to add new, relevant features to a tried and true matching genre. Where they succeeded in innovation, they fell a little short in designing rewards more frequently into the gameplay.