Let those monsters eat cake!

Oy. Is it just me, or is everyone else getting tired of the Candy Crush ripoffs? Perhaps it’s not fair to allow King’s mega-match-three game own all things sweet, but with millions of people obsessively playing it, it’s hard not to. Fair or not, it’s hard not to measure all new match-threes against their super-successful predecessor, and match-three social game Sugar Tales is just the latest to suffer by the comparison.

Like so many recent match-threes, Sugar Tales embraces a colorful, sweets-related visual theme. It makes a half-hearted attempt to differentiate itself by choosing cake instead of candy and by using a game board made up of hexagonal cells instead of square ones. As some newer match-three games have begun to do, it asks you to match three by clicking on groups of static icons (so long as they’re adjacent), rather than moving any of them around. It does, however, change the formula a bit by tossing a cute, googly-eyed monster into the mix.

Sugar Tales

The idea is to keep this cuddly gremlin happy by stuffing his face full of cake. You do that by moving him around the board; as long as there are three or more similar cakes next to one another, he can jump over and gobble them up. Your objective in the beginning is mainly to achieve a certain score within a set number of moves. Later on you’re asked to do other things like clear away ice, crates, or angry-looking chocolate chip cookies. As with most match-three games, you’re able to create power-ups by matching large groups of similar icons. Exploding croissants and rainbow “super cakes” then create explosive results, and as most of you know, the more explosive effects you achieve, the better.

When cakes are matched, they vanish from the board, thus causing the cakes above them to cascade down. Cascades can create additional matches and these are not only fun to watch, but grant helpful combo multipliers. Because of these, the first twenty-three levels of Sugar Tales are play-with-your-eyes-closed easy and could turn off less patient gamers. Post level twenty-three though, the difficulty ascends like a rocket as game board configurations change and levels become timed. Things also become even more challenging when the board’s invaded by evil mushroom monsters. These fractious fungi sit in a corner of the board and undermine your efforts by tossing obstacles in your way. Thankfully, they can be taken out by getting right up next to them and making multiple matches.

Sugar Tales

Due to its mild modifications to the match-three formula, Sugar Tales has a decent amount of match-three fun to offer. It’s hobbled, however, by its obvious attempt to bank on the popularity of Candy Crush and by its poorly translated text. “These ice needs is thick as hell” says the text at the start of a level, whereupon you respond, “Huh?” Verbiage like this appears throughout the game, although developer Artlogic Games mostly avoids the problem by minimizing the game’s text. Worse, every few levels, it throws annoying social game ads in your face.

On the upside, Sugar Tales employs the much more desirable “life” method, as in it gives you five lives and lets you use them to play as long as you can. This is far better than the energy method which constantly limits your gameplay sessions. As all free-to-play games do, it also allows you to connect with (translation: “bug”) your Facebook friends and has a boatload of purchasable power-ups. And if you care to play with a different-looking googly hero monster, you can do so for $2.99. Finally, it offers a five-life refill for only $.99 cents – a fairly good deal provided you’re a decent player.

On one hand, Sugar Tales is clearly a copycat match-three concept. On the other, its minor format changes provide enough entertainment to prevent time spent playing it a total waste. While there’s not much that helps it rise above the mediocre masses, as a representative of the match-three genre, you could do a lot worse.