Lots of readers rely on Windows Phone Central to learn about new Windows Phone games, but how does our staff discover games to share with the folks at home? My favorite method is by checking the “Newly discovered games thread” in our forums. Dedicated readers like “John Lampard” and Mohamed Ashid post a never-ending stream of Store links for new games.
One of the games our forum boys recently shared actually surprised me quite a bit. Jelly Smash is a match-3 puzzle game from AceViral.com, makers of Angry Gran Run. At first glance, I pegged Jelly Smash as another Candy Crush Saga clone to throw on the pile. But the more I played this one, the more I realized how well it stands on its own. It also happens to be exclusive to Windows Phone and Windows 8 and RT, which adds a few extra cool points in my book.
Speaking of Angry Gran, the character pops up on Jelly Smash’s title screen, diving into a pile of candy… or jellies… or whatever. It’s cool to see her here, but she doesn’t seem to show up anywhere else in the game. If you’re going to bother splashing a character all over the title screen, you might as well stick her in the menus and other areas too. Just look at Frozen Free Fall. Games like this really benefit from a little personality.
Anyway, the concept of Jelly Smash is simple. Players progress through more than fifty unique levels, completing each level’s goal and trying to earn high star ratings. Jelly Smash outdoes the average mobile game by offering more than just three stars to earn. Levels in this game go to FOUR, Spinal Tap-style. Naturally you can connect to Facebook in order to compete against friends and family. Friends can also send lives to each other.
Smashing the candy in style
To start out with, the goal in Jelly Smash is just to reach a target score in a specific amount of moves. Fail to complete the goal and you lose a life. Naturally, lives are finite but slowly recharge over time.
What’s cool about Jelly Smash is how it gradually increases in complexity with each new level. Each of the early levels teaches a new mechanic that makes this more than just an average match-3 game. For instance: match four and you’ll get a glowing jelly that explodes horizontally or vertically when matched, taking out a whole line of pieces.
Make a t-shape of jellies and you get a special jelly that explodes diagonally, which really mixes things up. Or create a square out of four like-colored jellies to build a bomb that explodes radially. Finally, 5-in-a-row forms a rainbow jelly that destroys all jellies of one color.
The variety of special pieces you can make would be impressive enough, but the chain reactions make things even better. It’s not unusual to create huge cascades of jellies exploding in all directions. The chaos of combos looks so impressive; the developers should add an instant replay feature.
Jelly Smash doesn’t just rely on score goals to create a challenge. Levels often feature unique obstacles like snow and gates. Spaces with snow much have a match cleared within them before the snow will disappear. Since the number of moves you have per level is limited, it can take a little planning (or luck) to clear all the snow away.
Other levels have spaces containing red and green gates. You have to make matches next to a gate in order to unlock it. Successfully unlock all of the gates in a level and you switch to a completely different area within the level. It makes for a nicely varied experience.
Besides the obvious ability to buy extra lives when you run out, Jelly Smash also offers premium powers as in-app purchases. To start with, you can buy six extra moves within a stage for 99 cents. Eventually you’ll unlock the power to rewind time and take a move back; the ability to remove any one jelly on the board; and the power to swap any two jellies around.
I’m not crazy about premium powers and what they do to game balance. But they are pretty common in games like this. Players who don’t want to spend anything can either muscle through tough levels by retrying until they win, or walk away when the going gets too rough.
Jelly Smash is one of the better match-3 games in the mobile Windows lineup. The clever mechanics and spectacular chain reactions it brings to the table definitely give it an edge. I do wish for a little more personality, and the music could be better. Still, the game is plenty of fun as-is.
It would be best for Microsoft and King.com to reach an agreement and bring Candy Crush Saga over before Candy Crush passes from memory. But until that happens, at least puzzle fans have several strong alternatives like this to keep them busy.
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