*UPDATE* 09/16/09: Alchmeize just received a MASSIVE update! New game modes, power-ups, and more. Check out the full details in post #34577
iPhone Game Review: Alchemize
Remember reading about those medieval wizards trying to turn lead to gold? Alchemists were some of the earliest scientists convinced that, with just the right chemicals and or magic incantations they could transform matter of one form to another. This game is your chance to prove to the world they may have been onto something in the form of a fun match 3 game with a novel twist.
If you just saw a few screenshots you probably could just write the game off as yet another match 3. Drop these connected pairs of pieces into the playfield, group three or more of the same symbol and they?ll disappear. Been there, done that. Well, actually, there is more to it this time around. Everytime you clear a group of three or more like elements they?ll disappear and leave behind a new piece in their wake. The element the pieces transform into and even where the new place will be placed is actually completely predictable and consistent. Three green potions will become a single yellow potion, three yellow potions will become a red potion, three red potions will become a purple potion and so on. There are 25 different elements in the game for you to work your way through and their hierarchy is always no more than a shake of your iDevice away (shaking your iDevice will bring up the conversion chart that shows the game?s pieces? conversion hierarchy).
This game doesn?t have any levels, per se, nor do the pieces ever come at you at a faster pace (you can take as long as you want to drop each linked pair) but, believe you me, the game will become brutally difficult in the later stages. The game starts with only two elements but once you?ve converted them into a third type of element, you?ll have three different symbols to try to find matches for and so on. Even once you get far into the game creating skulls (the 19th evolutionary element), those very initial potions will still be in the mix of dropping pieces making matching up three or more pieces that much more difficult, especially once the board really starts filling up. Lucky for you, once you get deep enough into the game, power-ups will start showing up to free you up some space in a myriad of different ways (blasting an area, clearing a row, or maybe knocking out all pieces on the board of a specific type).
The game?s background and many pieces are nice and almost photo realistic little images but the actual animation is pretty minimal with all pieces sharing the exact same sparkly explosion effects (no unique animations for each of the pieces).
The game?s soundtrack is very pleasant and professional. The morphing pieces, combos, and power-ups all have their own sound effects. Some 3GS users, if I understand it correctly, are not hearing the game?s sound effects. If you aren?t hearing the sounds like they?re presented in the trailer we?ve included below, you?ll know something weird is afoot on your system as well.
Pros: -A very slick/polished presentation. -Simple pick up and play match 3 mechanics which you could play as any other match 3 game or take at a much deeper level and really plot out those scoring combinations and or how to create the more evolved game elements. -The game is able to eventually turn stuff up into a brutal difficulty without ever resorting to any cheap timer based antics. There are no speed bonuses or any reason to make moves any faster than you feel comfortable with. -A great variety of power-ups (6 so far with an additional 3 soon to be added in the next update). -Local and Online Leaderboards. -A very intuitive and robust save and load system that will allow you to keep multiple saves as well as save your progress at any point without even having to exit your current session (if you just want to use it as a checkpoint to return to later if things soon go awry. -A limited lite version of the game is out to let you see if you really want to plunk down cash for the full version.
Cons: -What does this game cost again? Since the game?s launch the company behind it seems to have been constantly shifting the price. It started at a whopping $9.99 (no typo), dropped down to a limited sale price of $4.99, and now seems to have settled at $2.99 (I further assume this is no longer a sale price but its semi permanent price until we hear otherwise. I really like this game and while I think $10 was a bit over the top, I, in retrospect, would have gladly paid as much as $5 for the honor to play this game. -Only one gameplay mode at the moment (they plan on adding more in an update). -While probably only a gripe from me, but I?m not really happy with the game?s incredibly friendly save/load system. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it but, as a game with global rankings, it means that any highscores you see might just be a case of somebody endlessly saving at good points and reloading his best save after death until they?ve achieved any score they want. So, basically, the convenient save system makes it too easy to ?game the game?.
I can easily say this is one of the best match 3s out there but, at the same time, this game?s main hook of ever evolving pieces, might prove more of a bother than a fun hook to some who just want to zone out matching pieces together. If a fan of match 3 puzzlers and looking for a new twist and without the constant tension of a timer ticking down, I can?t recommend this game any more highly!
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: -4- Really nice nearly photorealistic vector based icons (which, IMHO, is just a fancy way of describing something that looks 2D) with minimal animation. Sound: -4- A great soundtrack with pretty good sound effects (if they?re working for you). Controls: -4.5- The game?s swipe and rotate controls performed predictably and consistently. Gameplay: -4.5- I?ve been playing this game consistently for a couple of weeks now. I love how this simple new tweak of evolving pieces really adds a whole new level to the basic match 3 gameplay. I also love the game?s ability to raise the tension to brutal levels without ever resorting to any cheap timed aspects.
Playing Hints and Tips: -The key to big points is to both clear the more evolved pieces (they?re worth more points) as well as creating cascading combinations (causing that newly formed element to then set off another group of three or more of the same element).
-New elements will always take the place of the lowest space of a cleared grouping (if there are multiple spaces at the same elevation to choose from, the furthest left is chosen).
-An element will never appear in a dropped piece until it has been used in a cleared grouping (so even if you've made a few snowflakes on the board, it won't be until you clear a group of them that you'll see them in a dropped pair).
-Once you've gotten far enough in the game to see a snowflake or two the power-ups will start appearing (perhaps you know when they kick in more precisely?)
-You're free to save at any point (no need to even exit the game) so there is no reason not to simply save at any point the game is going well so as to have sort of a checkpoint to return to once you're defeated. The art being to know when to save as trying to save things when already near the end (the field almost all filled up) would be a pretty silly point to return to later if you really want to kick this game's butt.
-As those powerups are pretty rare, try to use them strategically as possible.
-Bombs are moody in this game.
(our own Carlosz has some of his own advanced tips to add in the mix): -I start to place tiles/elements from right to left (as all of the converted pieces will cause stuff to drift to the left). -I try to avoid, as much as possible, placing a more evolved element over a simpler one. -Sometimes I sacrifice a column (and pray for a bomb).
Actually, not that it makes any real sense, you don't mix different things, just a grouping of one similar element. 3 or more clovers cleared will then produce a single leaf (there is no real logic at work here, just the game logic that a group of three or more of the same items will become the next step down the evolution of pieces).
ALCHEMIZE? 1.1 NEW FEATURES: - 3 NEW special elements (Power-Ups: Bowling Ball, Good Chameleon, Bad Chameleon) - 2 NEW game modes with separate Online HIGH SCORES (Action and Avalanche) - 2 NEW Music Tracks - NEW graphics and sound effects - AND MORE IMPROVEMENTS.
ALCHEMIZE? ALL FEATURES: - 25 elements to combine. - unlimited saves. - 9 special elements (Power-Ups) to help in your journey. - online high scores for each game mode. - 3 music tracks - unique graphics and sound effects.
The dev said he was getting really steamed at all of the whining emails he received about $2.99 being too much.
The general reaction has been interesting and almost divided between the two "party" lines (the parties being Consumers vs. Independent Developers).
The Consumers for the most part feel this is just a foolish tantrum that only seems to steer future potential buyers away from this immature developer.
The Independent Developers, on the other hand, are cheering him on to do something they've always wanted to but never had the cajones to do themselves. The issue at hand is the current wave of $0.99 apps. While it has worked great for the developers behind Flight Control, Harbor Master, and as much as it seems Apple tried to thwart them, Minigore, it isn't a viable model for most other developers.
I myself appreciate saving money as much as the next guy but realize that if this "every game for $0.99 and then free every other weekend" continues you'll only be seeing a lot of quickly whipped out copy cat games of other winning formulas.