Review: Ah! Wolves!!
Can you build up your village into a town and then a city, by matching three pieces of grass? Can you do all that while trapping the wolves? Ah! Wolves!! hopes to find out, with an interesting mix of puzzle genres.
Version Reviewed: 22.214.171.124
Ah! Wolves!! is rather a lot of exclamation marks, so let's keep the strain off my keyboard, and go with Ah Wolves instead. Let's also get one more thing out of the way (and be generous about it). Ah Wolves draws heavily on Spry Fox's 'Triple Town' on Android. That's not an unknown thing in the gaming world, and Ah Wolves at least doesn't make a land-grab for the known name in the Windows Phone Store. Spry Fox have already taken other developers to court for a presentation that was 'too close' to the original. So Ah Wolves treads a fine line.
Enough of that , the game mechanics are well suited to a mobile game.
Mathematically the game will always have an end point - unlike games like Tetris which can go on forever, and level based puzzlers that have a definitive end point marked by success, Ah Wolves will always drive the player towards an ignominious end.
Ah Wolves is a variant of the match-three game. Rather than sorting out a mixed grid and trying to line up three icons, Ah Wolves asks you to place the icons down on an empty grid. If that was the only move that you had available, the grid would soon fill up. The key to Ah Wolves is when three icons of the same type are connected in a group (but not on a diagonal). When that happens the last piece played absorbs the other two similar pieces, and increases a 'level'. If that causes a chain reaction with adjoining pieces of the same new level, then up it goes again.
Ah Wolves follows a city building theme. The elements you first plant are grass, which then level up to bushes and trees, which become basic huts, houses, and more. Laying out the elements (which are handed to you randomly) is a mix of logic and planning. You will need to think carefully about your plan, and be ready to account for random elements coming at you as you look to build up points in your town.
Getting in the way are the titular wolves. These take up a whole space each when you place them down, and will roam the area, blocking you from building on the space they occupy. The only way to defeat them is to box them in with elements so they cannot move, at which point they will turn into a gravestone. Which still blocks a space, but it can be cleared - and at least it doesn't move.
When the cityscape is full, the game will end and you will receive a number of gold coins depending on your skill at building up the city. These can be spent in the shop to allow you to buy the next element you will receive, or other special blocks including bombs, crystals, and big claws which can help you keep the game free of awkward elements.
Many of these feel like a cheat mode to me. Part of the fun of games like this is the unpredictable nature and planning for chance. When you can buy your way out of trouble because of previous success, the challenge feels diminished. In a way it shouldn't, because Ah Wolves is a good piece of strategy, although you need to come to terms with the game in that you can never actually beat it, just postpone the end as long as possible. There is a solid game here, that offers a challenge without being too repetitive. But when the challenge is easily bypassed because you scored well in previous games to get coins, the challenge is no longer there.
While the Triple Town game style is one that I like, and one that I am glad to see on Windows Phone, Ah Wolves isn't quite 'it'. The balance feels wrong, with too much grass coming out of the random element creator, the graphics aren't as cheerful as I think they could be, and there's a general feeling that it has been rushed out,
AH Wolves works, but it could work a lot better. There is room for improvement here from a competing game.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at