Review: Puzzle Craft
I've always taken it as read that mobile gamers with smartphones like resource-based games, where you have to earn items, fashion new ones, make a profit, and go buy more items. I also reckon mobile gamers like tile-based puzzle games. Take those two elements, smash them together, and you get Puzzle Craft. And I think a lot of people will be playing this free to download title for some time to come.
Version Reviewed: 188.8.131.52
So, how do the two sides of the game work with each other? Thankfully, quite well, and casual gamers should find the split quite amenable. If you are strongly in either the 'resource game' or 'puzzle tile game' camp, you might find that you want to play more on one side of the coin than the other. Puzzle Craft requires you keep both sides of the game - collecting resources and using the resources to expand your village towards something more spectacular - in balance.
If I had to draw any faults, I would say the puzzle side of the game is the weaker element. Taking the 'match 3' style of puzzle games, you can either tend to the fields (to gather crops and tend to animals), or work down the mine for raw resources. Both areas ask you to trace a line through the item you want to collect. As long as it is three or more connected items, they will be collected and added to your store. Meanwhile gravity pulls everything else down and new items are added at the top.
The number of moves you can make is limited - when tending the fields you get 24 moves, and that's it, while down the mines you can only make as many moves as the miners have food and supplies. That's food which has been harvested by the other match-3 game, which is used to let you mine for raw materials that can be used to build up your village, or build tools that make it easier to collect items on both match-3 games. It's very much a 'circle of life' style of playing the game.
Here's the annoying bit. This part isn't fun at all. I know that as the game progresses this will become an area where you have to 'grind' out to gather the items you want, but as you start the game it's simply not challenging enough. I think it's because diagonal moves are allowed (opening up a stupid number of options to make your moves), and there is a lack of a time constraint. You can take as long as you like to make a move. Combined, these make the match-3 element far too easy for me.
As you play through the match-3 games, you find that each game earns you a little bit more in resources than it costs you start the game (either in gold coins to pay the villagers to harvest the field, or in food to keep the miners strength up). Those extra resources are used to build up your village.
Not only is this a way to gauge your progress in the game, it also changes the style of gaming. You can increase the potency of the mines to deliver more silver and rocks, you can have more chickens show up in the fields, and you can be more efficient collecting items using various tools. In essence, you can fashion your own power ups from a wide range, assuming you have the right items.
And if you don't, then you can buy them with the marketplace you've handily built at the end of the tutorial. With the in-game coins you've been collecting (or a huge stash of coins that you've purchased via the Windows Store through the in-app purchasing system) you can purchase individual items, or if you feel like splashing out, then buy the power up outright for a crazy amount of coins. Given Puzzle Craft is a free download and the IAP for extra coins is the only obvious income stream for the developer, I think this is a fair exchange. You can play without paying if you wish, and many will - but if your time is more important, then a few pounds to the developers will help you along the way.
Because I think many people will be playing this for a long time. It has that certain addictive quality that ongoing games need to have, and I want to keep coming back to it, even with the crummy match-3 mechanic. I want to see more people move into my village, I want to see more buildings, better mine shafts, and happier villagers (all paying their tax every two hours to give me more coins).
And I love that I want to keep playing this day after day, even with the small font size used on the construction screens. Puzzle Craft has me hooked, and while I can't say I'm completely impressed, I know ongoing lust when I see it. Feel free to start playing, but beware, it will draw you in rather quickly.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at