Match three games seem to have broken through the shit barrier. Puzzle Quest took basic plan-ahead gameplay into the realms of RPGs and Aurora Feint is giving a simpler distraction for free, to anyone with the new iPod software. Planet Busters dispenses completely with the pretension of grimoires and enchanted glades – you’ll be using your colour-matching skills to destroy huge ships in space. With a score straight from a John Williams TIE-fighter dogfight, urgent time limits, and several different level styles, it’s easy to forget that you’re lining up three similarly coloured rockets, in order to launch all adjoining rockets of the same colour.
The launch conditions (three in a row) and patterns (all adjoining) allow you to plan for large chain launches, but that’s barely the point here; mostly you’ll be matching up as fast as possible to avoid death, and collecting EMPs and missiles (by matching rockets next to them) to destroy debris and preserve your shields until the end of the grid. There are a surprising variety of levels, and occasionally you’ll even find yourself forced to strategize on a level beyond simply surviving the current wave. But the game crashes regularly, and the save system is unreliable. Planet Busters is a challenging diversion and a welcome change of pace in casual gaming. If it had reliable saves, it’d be pushing a recommended award.
Aug 15, 2008