Match-three games are a dime a dozen these days in the mobile market. While their gameplay is fun in a classic way, most tend to blur together into an indistinguishable cacophony of color and noise. Why try out a new one when you can always just play Bejeweled? I myself always turn to Pokemon Puzzle League and Puzzle Challenge, two games more than a decade old, when I want some match-three action. Now there’s a few more recent titles out there that have done interesting spins on the well-worn genre, such as 10000000 and the Puzzle Quest series of games that mix traditional RPG elements with puzzle gameplay. But out of nowhere here (well, actually, out of the twenty-sixth round of the Ludum Dare), comes QbQbQb, probably the most interesting twist on what is one of my favorite kinds of games.
Made by Przemyslaw ‘rezoner’ Sikorski in HTML5, QbQbQb tasks the player with matching triplicates of differently coloured blocks around small planets with either the keyboard arrows or a gamepad. Each complete set adds points to the total score, and a new planet is unlocked once one thousand points are achieved. Gameplay starts out slow and fairly easy, matching the initially and similarly smooth, relaxing music. Inevitably as the player succeeds in completing sets and stacking combos, the music and rate of blocks increases. The size and length of the blocks also changes, leaving less space for other blocks. It’s a subtle change, almost unnoticeable until the player starts messing up. Similarly to Tetris Attack (and thusly, the Pokemon Puzzle games), unconnected blocks start adding up, penalizing the player when the stacks break through the planet’s atmosphere (the white halo surrounding the planet). Do this a certain number of times, and it’s game over.
Like many of the games in the genre, QbQbQb is deceptively simple. It’s a pure challenge, addictive both due to its mechanics and aesthetic. I mean, oh boy, it’s a pretty game. The color palette is mild and unsaturated yet blooms and explodes across the screen. The more triplicates a player completes, the more starts happening, with butterflies and fireworks and flourishes like flowers in a strong breeze. The game accomplishes all this while still maintaining a relatively minimalistic art style. In conjunction with the game’s music which transitions from smooth to energetic beats, QbQbQb has simultaneously a calm and frenzied atmosphere. It’s very easy to fall into a trance-like state while playing, simply taking the opportunity to absorb the sights and sounds of it. That fact works great to transform game overs not into an irritation, but rather just another chance to enjoy the scenery all over again.
As a very neat addition, QbQbQb also has a two player mode that can be played with a single keyboard (one player using the WASD keys and the other using the arrow keys) or two gamepads. It’s pretty much the same game with two planets instead of one on the screen. It would be nice to have online play to compete against friends that don’t live locally, but that’s a rather minor complaint. The only other thing I can say disappointed me about the game is that it’s just too short! I would’ve loved even more planets with many more additions.
For four dollars however, QbQbQb is a pretty great value, as the soundtrack containing all the wonderful upbeat electronic music is included with the purchase. The game is available for Windows, OSX, and Linux at rezoner’s website through a Humble Widget and will eventually arrive on Android and iOS. There’s also a playable in-browser demo available on the website.
This game was reviewed using a copy provided by the developer for that purpose. The review was based on the Windows version.
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