Pro tip: An alien makeover doesn’t involve makeup.
In MumboJumbo’s fifth installment in the 7 Wonders franchise, 7 Wonders: Ancient Alien Makeover, we continue to see some of the most highly polished match-three play this side of Bejeweled, with an interesting Wonder/city-building mechanic thrown in for depth. The 7 Wonders series has never been known for complex storylines and extraordinary gameplay variety, but this series continues to be one that’s easy to start playing, yet incredibly hard to put down.
The storyline in 7 Wonders: Ancient Alien Makeover sees humans and aliens working together for the betterment of both species. Humans are providing aliens with gemstones and minerals to power their devices, while the aliens teach humans about their advanced sciences. This is a pretty peachy setup, but the story isn’t really referenced again throughout your 3-4 hours of possible play here. Instead, you’ll be thrown into the process of building a variety of Wonders all around the globe, from South America to Europe, via a fairly standard, but also incredibly fun match-three gameplay setup.
Each level asks you to make matches of three or more similar symbols either vertically or horizontally in order to clear the tiles underneath. Once all of the level’s tiles have been removed, a cornerstone will appear on the board that must reach the bottom (by clearing the symbols underneath it) to actually complete the level. Depending on your choice of difficulty, your progress could be timed, but the average player should have no real challenge in finishing each level on Normal. This is especially true when taking into account the game’s many power-ups, which can appear both automatically and manually.
The most common power-ups are earned by making matches of four or five symbols at once, and they see you eliminating an entire row or column of gems from the board with a single click. Other power-ups may see you eliminating just a single tile that’s causing trouble, throwing an x symbol on the board to clear a selection of tiles and so on. You’ll be able to choose which power-ups to use by simply activating them from a menu on the left-hand side of the screen, but depending on the size of your computer monitor, these can be placed a bit too far away from the action.
As you complete stages, you’ll earn building blocks, gold bricks and more, which can be used as construction materials on the world’s many Wonders. These construction materials can be earned by making matches with special kinds of symbols while playing, so there’s more incentive to playing each level than simply dropping the cornerstone to the bottom of the screen. That being said, if you don’t collect all of the resources before activating this cornerstone, you might miss out on valuable building materials and will have to play extra match-three levels as a result. Either way, each Wonder will take anywhere from 6-10 levels to complete, depending on your skill level and patience, and you must complete these Wonders before unlocking further groups of levels to play back at the World Map. You’ll also be able to build a small town for your human and alien friends, with trees, flowers, businesses, homes, statues and more being placed on your choice of highlighted circles as you progress.
This city-building section of the game is incredibly light, but it serves as a nice change of pace from the rest of the game that could benefit from some added variety. It would be nice to see more challenges thrown into each level, other than their time limits, and the option to change the method of making matches would also be appreciated (say, by allowing us to simply click on groups of matching symbols, rather than swapping two of their locations as normal).
Even so, 7 Wonders: Ancient Alien Makeover is simply an awesome match-three game that contains incredibly fluid, polished gameplay that screams of an attention to detail which so many other games lack. It may not come with all of the bells and whistles that one might expect from a modern game in the match-three genre, but it still contains everything you need for a fun afternoon (or two, or ten), which is really all we can ask for.