Saturday, January 4, 2014

Review: Comboline the Touch Action Puzzle for iPhone and iPad

Comboline (also free) is a match 3 game released in 2011 by the Italian indie studio Big Bang Pixel. Christian Costanza, the graphics and game designer, kindly sent me a promo code. He also had the honor of being the first person to reach 10th Dan in Zen Garden Puzzle, which is no small feat.
I'm not much into match 3 games, especially timed ones, but I liked the simplicity of this one: there are no silly powerups or other things you can buy, it's just you and the tiles.

I think that the mechanics for most match 3 games on the App Store involve swapping adjacent tiles, or simply selecting already existing connections.
Comboline is pretty original because you move whole rows or columns, like in a toroidal sliding block puzzle. A game with similar mechanics was Chuzzle, but it's no longer available.
You know the drill: to make a move, you must bring three or more tiles of the same color on the same line. All matching tiles will then disappear, and new ones will fall from the top.

A significant quality of this game is that the tiles that fall after a match will never create more random matches, so every point scored is a consequence of the player's moves and not of luck. Additionally, it is always guaranteed that it's possible to make at least one match, so the only way to lose is by running out of time.

The key to scoring is making combos. A combo is not just making multiple matches with a single move: it is making additional matches after the initial matches disappear and the tiles fall. When you do that, the score multiplier increases.

The number of tile colors increases while you play. Initially there are just 3 colors, so it's easy to make matches and combos. You go up a level when the score changes order of magnitude (10,000, then 100,000, 1,000,000, etc.), up to level 6 which has 8 colors.
Playing is more a matter of observation and reflexes than deep reasoning. In principle you can try to plan your moves and predict combos to maximize the score multiplier; in practice, I'm not very good at timed games, so my strategy is to just try and make matches as fast as possible, preferring horizontal lines, which have a higher chance of producing combos.

I particularly appreciated that you can quit the app and later resume from where you left; this is important because a game can last a good amount of time.

The customary check with a protanopia simulator shows that the game is probably not ideal for color blind people; using shapes additionally to colors would have been a welcome addition.
I'm usually not attracted to timed games, but this one was a pleasant exception; it's intuitive, smooth, and has a good rhythm.

The free version just limits the score you can achieve, so it's a good way to see if you like the game. Check it out.


Logical Reasoning★☆☆☆☆
User Interface★★★★☆
Loading Time★★★★☆
Saves Partial Progress
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©2014 Nicola Salmoria. Unauthorized use and/or duplication without express and written permission is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicola Salmoria and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.