Review: Super Gridland31 Jan 2017 0
Review: Super Gridland
Released 19 Jan 2017
Match-three games have been a fixture in video gaming for a couple decades now. The genre owes its popularity to intuitive and accessible gameplay that appeals to a wide variety of people. One needs look no further than Bejeweled and its six different games spanning sixteen years and spread across eighteen different platforms to gauge the genre's reach. As mobile gaming has exploded match-three games have proliferated at the same pace. For every successful franchise there are countless clones. My default tendency is to avoid these games. Don't get me wrong, I’m not a hater of the genre. Back in the day I played a lot of Bejeweled on Palm OS for example (yes, I'm old). It's just that the vast majority of match-three games are boringly derivative and crammed full of objectionable freemium mechanics.
It's gotten to the point that you can't swing a dead Pokémon without hitting a match-three game in the App Store. There have been notable exceptions of course, games that put an interesting spin on the usual match-three gameplay or combine them with a different genre. Super Gridland, out now for both iOS and Android, falls into the category of non-clone variant. It's a match-three game that features town building, monster battling, and an intriguing day/night twist. Tof checked it out in a recent Out Now and we decided there was enough of interest to warrant a closer look.
Super Gridland's biggest innovation on traditional match-three gameplay is a day/night cycle. By day you're a builder collecting resources to construct and then improve buildings in your village. You'll gather resources for this task by matching up tiles denoting wheat, wood, bricks, and more. The goal here is the same as most match-three games—make the biggest possible matches and trigger cascades of matches if you can. As the materials pile up the builder will grab finished blocks and place them within one of several homes in the village. As he works the sun creeps across the sky from dawn to mid-day to dusk.
When night comes the tiles flip over, revealing swords, shields, and creatures that go bump in the night. Rather than going home to rest, your tireless builder takes on these monsters and other instruments of evil. At night not all matches are good ones. Most summon monsters that attack and try and kill our heroic craftsman. The exceptions are swords and shields—key tools of survival. A sword lets your builder stop punching creatures with his bare fists and will make much quicker work of them. A shield defends him from claws, fangs, arrows, and other attacks—while it lasts. When you have both of these active you can afford to be bullish on making matches at night, you're ready to take on the monsters that result. Both sword and shield are consumed as the builder fights, however, and must be frequently replenished. When you have neither it is often best to go for easier kills and try to get through the night.
There are also three types of battle buffs that can help Mr. Builder survive. There's a potion that restores hearts—health is represented in the game by a series of heart icons—a buff that restores a full sword and shield, and finally a bomb that damages all enemies on the screen. These buffs frequently drop as loot when monsters are defeated in battle and their proper use is instrumental to surviving the night. You can track the progress of night based on the moon's path through the sky and getting to daylight is often a close thing. Death in Super Gridland does not end your game, so all is not lost either way. If you die, you have to restart the day. Matches made in the daylight restore health, so it is usually enough to eke your way through the night and conserve heart potions if you are running low. You can expect to make enough matches for the builder to be at full strength when night falls again.
Time passes in Super Gridland, as indicated by the number of days, and as it does everything improves. The village's buildings become larger and more grand. The building materials and other resources upgrade as well—wheat becomes chicken for example. As the village grows a better quality monster feels it is worth their time to stalk its residents. Luckily for the village's lone guardian, the weapons and shields also improve. Swords go from mundane metal affairs to what could be described as light sabers. The builder/guardian also improves with time. You gain experience for making matches and besting monsters and upon leveling regains all health, a boon worth keeping in mind when in the thick of battle.
There is an ultimate goal in Super Gridland and the game has an ending. I won't reveal too much of it here but I don't think it ruins anything to say it is a particularly challenging fight against a foe at the top of the monster kingdom. The final fight has a much more frenetic pace as well and proceeds whether or not you are making matches. It's up to you to decide which matches to make. Many will hurt, but without a steady replenishment of swords and shields victory will be in doubt.
If you do beat the game you get a lot of cool stats about your game. You'll know how many tiles you swapped and resources you gathered, as well as things like your longest tile chain and consecutive nights survived. There are also combat statistics like the most monsters you fought at once and how many you killed in all. Also your total number of deaths. These numbers are cool and I like that you have to earn them by finishing the game.
There isn't a lot new in Super Gridland and we've seen plenty of match-three combat games, but the day/night gameplay shift is a cool twist. I also like the overall theme of building and then defending your home village from evil. It makes me think a bit of 17th and 18th century monster stories and the Magic: The Gathering plane of Innistrad. There's also a fair bit of tactics involved both in the day cycle—where you might decide to leave certain tiles, those that transform into swords and shields, unharvested in anticipation of a tough fight—and at night in how you use your weapons, armor, and buffs to take out the bad guys.
Having said that, this isn't the most challenging game you'll find. Once you get things down it is easy to fall into rinse-and-repeat mode. The game gets fairly easy, even on the higher difficulty mode, and I started to lose steam around day twenty five though I still found it worthwhile to finish the game. The challenge returns in the end-of-game battle, but you do have to grind out some days to get strong enough to stand a chance. There also isn't much of a draw for additional play throughs. One game is a lot like the next, although you could set a personal goal to finish in a certain number of game days.
If you're a fan of match-three games you'll be happy with Super Gridland. It may not be a game you'll replay over and over but the first play through is entertaining and it is a premium game with no IAP. If you want to try before you buy, Gridland—the original game in the series—is playable for free online for a rough idea.