Expand the hive!
Admit it—we’ve all had the same thought from time to time: “Why oh why can’t there be a match-three puzzle game that combines the stripped-down brilliance of Bejeweled with the evolutionary excitement of Pokemon?” Seriously…it’s been a major problem since the dawn of games. Well these concerns can finally be laid to rest thanks to developer appxplore’s (Sporos) newest release, Alien Hive.
This deceptively simple title tasks gamers with rearranging tiles within a 36-sqaure hive to—you guessed it—match three or more tiles of the same kind. But rather than tiles simply disappearing to make way for more tiles/strategic possibilities, Alien Hive takes things a step further with a rather interesting twist.
Say, for example, you match three or more of what we are calling eggs. These are then transformed into what we’ll call zygotes. Match three or more of these and you’ll be met with an alien fetus. Match these and you’ll get a baby alien and so forth and so on until you reach one of 12 supreme aliens in the hopes of evolving the greatest dang alien hive the universe has ever seen! It sounds simple enough, but there’s a lot more at play here. The more aliens you match and evolve, the more you’ll see that Alien Hive is actually a very intelligent puzzler, with more depth than meets the eye.
You’ll begin each round with a predetermined number of available moves. Run out of moves and the round is up. Not only that, but evil robots begin popping up and spend their time making certain tiles immovable, thus reducing the number of fruitful moves at your disposal. In order to play longer, kill robots and evolve more successfully, you must match up plants and crystals throughout the board. These generate more turns, as well as in-game gold which can be used to snag power-ups and support items like the Botkiller (which eliminates all robots on the board) Fertilizer (evolves all plants of a certain level) or the Blaster (take one tile out completely).
Plants can be evolved in a similar way to the aliens, and the more mature the plant-life being matched the more turns will be generated. Similarly, the higher number of objects you match will yield better results. In other words, five crystals matched means more turns than only matching three. Extra turns and more gold is also earned by leveling up your hive.
All resources carry over between rounds, and while this may seem like a nice little addition it soon becomes painfully clear that Alien Hive is balanced so as to make micro-transactions a necessity. I recruited my girlfriend to help me check out the game, and – while she has been so wrapped up in evolving her aliens that she hasn’t spoken to me since she started playing – we both hit the same wall every single time: there is only so far you can go without coughing up a couple bucks for things like doubling the number of available moves or boosting the gold you’ll earn. There is nothing wrong with micro-transactions per se, and it’s cool that some of them are permanent upgrades, but when it becomes almost impossible to get past a certain point in a game without handing over real world money, this seems unfair.
Luckily, Alien Hive is free, and nobody ever said you were under any obligation to spend actual money on anything. Chalk it up to the way the wind is blowing in the gaming world these days, what with F2P and all… just know that if you are a parent, you might want to make sure your kids are aware of how that works before your cellphone bill includes 50 real-world dollars spent on in-game gold earmarked to kill robots.
Music in Alien Hive seems cute at first but eventually devolves (see what we did there?) into the kind of thing that repeats too much. You’ll probably want to turn it off and listen to something that won’t make you wish you were born without ears. To appxplore’s credit, they’ve made it possible to mute music but keep the super-satisfying sound effects (and vice versa) for optimal enjoyment. As a good number of iOS games seem to fit into the killing time category, it’s nice to be able to mute one or both if, say, you decide to bus someplace or are waiting in a long line at the post office (both of those things happened to me and I was glad to have such an addictive game to keep me company).
With cool additional elements like Game Center achievements, leaderboards and the enticing Hall of Aliens, Alien Hive becomes one of the cooler puzzle games available on iOS. Just keep in mind that you’ll have to be either extremely patient in collecting gold over multiple rounds or willing to spend real money to reap the many evolutionary rewards waiting to be found within. Alien Hive isn’t likely to rewrite the history of match-three puzzlers (it draws a lot of inspiration from Triple Town), and it’s kind of frustrating that micro-transactions become necessary, but overall Alien Hive is an addictive game that belongs in the library of just about any puzzle fanatic. And did we mention it’s free? Start evolving already!