Candy Crush Saga ReviewJoe Shaffer
Let's get one important detail out of the way, shall we? If you're a die hard gamer who can't stand casual titles, then Candy Crush Saga isn't for you. There's a good chance you've played a ton of puzzlers in your time, especially if you lived in the '90s when zillions of Tetris clones sat on store shelves beside Nintendo's collection of character-themed puzzle titles (e.g. Kirby's Avalanche, Yoshi's Cookie, Wario's Woods, etc.). Candy Crush Saga isn't much different for those, save for its touch-screen based play control and "freemium" elements.
The rest of you, who aren't above cruising the Google Play for a free, addictive app, are a different story...
Candy Crush may as well be called Candy Crack. It's an uncomplicated title with straightforward mechanics that involves lining up three pieces of similarly colored candy in the hopes of causing them to mysteriously vanish. Any sweets sitting above the cleared ones drops downward, potentially forming more matches and perhaps even sparking a chain reaction. To match the delicious morsels, you need only to drag a single piece on the grid in one of four directions. That will temporarily swap it with the candy sitting in the direction in which you swipe, causing it to revert back to its original position if it doesn't happen to form a match. If the screen holds no available matches, the game will automatically reshuffle the grid.
Putting together more than three like candies in a row produces some awesome effects that can aid you in achieving the stage's goal. For instance, four pieces in a row creates a striped piece of candy which, when combined into a match, eliminates either the row or column in which it currently lies (depends on which way the stripes are oriented). Creating an L formation with five confections converts them into a wrapped sweet that explodes twice, thereby demolishing all surrounding bits, and a straight run of five candies transforms into a "Color Bomb." This bad boy, when swapped with a piece, eliminates all other candies on the board of the same color. Additionally, moving one special sweet into another can result in devastating effects. For instance, swiping a Color Bomb into a purple striped candy will turn all other violet yum-yums into deadly striped bonbons, all of which ignite one after another. The end result is a glorious explosion of row- and column-consuming blasts, usually followed by myriad chain reactions and a huge boost in your score.
You might be wondering: what is it about Candy Crush that keeps so many people annoyingly glued to their phones and tablets? The answer is good old fashion reinforcement. You see, the game is simple as can be. Putting together impressive specialty pieces and kicking off excellent combos is not hard to pull off in the early outs of the game, which makes smashing the first few dozen objectives a breeze. With a few choice swipes and some astute observation, you'll likely rock hard for about fifty levels. By that point, you'll feel like a god and that nothing can stop you, but also around that time the game steps up its difficulty rating. That's also when you begin to lose more frequently, but you don't suffer such horrific defeats that you rage quit. Rather, the game barely wins the bout, leaving little doubt you will be successful if you try again. So you re-commence crushing sweets with renewed vigor, and usually you'll overcome the adversity within a few attempts. After that, you might encounter a series of two to four very easy challenges, which restores your god-like attitude and ensures that you will keep playing after your next not-so-terrible defeats.
It's easy for a puzzle game to wear thin after a while because they don't usually feature much variety. Candy Crush, on the other hand, keeps the experience fresh by supplying you with a multitude of objectives and by introducing new features every so often. The game might ask you to attain a certain score within a set time limit or attempt to bring "ingredients," such as cherries or hazelnuts, down to the bottom of the screen by eliminating the morsels below them. One of my favorites involved collecting "orders," which meant you had to wipe out a certain number of a particular type of candy. Stages like those always kept me on my toes, scanning the grid for potential matches and acting quickly. They especially became nuts when the orders involved more complex pieces, like striped or wrapped candies.
Many of the later game features appear in the form of new (and often bothersome) constrains. One of the objectives you might run afoul of is clearing away certain semi-transparent "jelly" squares by crushing the candy pieces they hold. This can be an exhausting effort, especially when jelly occasionally manifests in tight corners where it's difficult to generate matches. However, surmounting such maddening tasks leads to greater ego boosts, so having those occasional tough stages is essential. However, some newly introduced features are more infuriating than they are welcome, such as explosives. These suckers display a number on them, indicating how many turns you have until they explode. If you fail to disarm a bomb by including it in a match, then it's curtains for you. None of the other limitations the game imposes, from reproducing chocolate impediments to annoying liquorish blocks that prevent candy pieces from spawning (as well as block the line-annihilating power of the striped candy), quite measure up to the sheer frustrating factor the the bombs bring to the game. It's irritating to start a level with an explosive on the screen that you're unable to deactivate, thereby leading to a quick 'game over' thanks to rotten luck.
Honestly, the bombs are not a huge complaint, and I dig the challenge factor boost presented by the game's obstacles. What I can't stomach as easily, though, is Candy Crush's implementation of freemium elements. Yes, Candy Crush is a "free" game, but sports a handful of ways that it tries to suck digits from your bank account. Some stages are so overhwelmingly challenging that you almost can't win without purchasing additional turns or a helpful item called a "Lollipop Hammer," which instantly eradicates anything within a selected square, as well as jelly. Even with a hammer or two, labors like Level 65 or Level 125 will shatter your face. The former's objective bids you to remove all jelly on the screen within fifty moves, whilst dealing with a couple of different obstructions, not to mention that some of the jellies have tucked themselves into numerous hard-to-reach crevices. 125 presents the same challenge, but also requires you to earn 80,000 points within fifty-five moves, plus you have to deal with scores of liquorish and multi-layered meringues, which only disappear after you've made two matches in squares adjacent to them. Needless to say, the difficulty rating of these stages is ridiculous, and at times seems impossible. After about twenty consecutive losses, you'll likely either surrender and fire up some other app or start eying King's power-up shop.
Thankfully, stages as harsh as the aforementioned examples are infrequent. I can understand their existence, though, because the developers do need to pay their employees somehow. The only alternative is to charge for Candy Crush Saga, and I don't think the game would have been as successful were it not technically freeware. That hiccup aside, though, Candy Crush is still an unpretentious and enjoyable title, thanks to its mostly balanced challenge factor and breezy mechanics.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.