Long a favorite on Facebook, Candy Crush Saga has made the jump to iOS. With awesome pieces of candy instead of stupid old jewels, Candy Crush Saga follows the same gameplay as Bejeweled: switch two candies to make a three-in-a-row match. Create special matches and you’ll get power boosts. Clear enough candy in time, and you win the round. But does it take more than sweet, sweet candy to make a game really stand out? Not in my experience, but let’s find out.
There are probably three main boards in Candy Crush Saga, with a few variations on each. The most ubiquitous is the “clear the jelly” board, wherein some or all of the candy pieces will be surrounded by jelly. As you clear the candy, the jelly disappears, but your total number of moves is going to be limited. A second board is “bring down all the ingredients.” Cherries and nuts will start at the top of the board, and you have to clear enough candy pieces to let the ingredients slip out the bottom, within a limited number of moves, of course. The timed board is more straightforward and generally requires only that you reach a certain number of points in a very limited amount of time.
Winning a round and moving onto the next board also moves you along on the map. That’s where the “saga” comes into Candy Crush Saga, I suppose, though it seems all the games put out by this developer are a saga of one kind or another. The map is divided into territories, and you have an overall goal to complete before leaving the territory, but the individual rounds don’t seem to have much to do with completing the map goal. In the second map section, Candy Crush Saga asks you to save a dragon by refilling his lemonade lake, but none of the puzzles actually have anything at all to do with lemonade, unfortunately.
This is a tough game. It’s a lot of fun and, for me, incredibly addictive, but it was really hard. I would have to try over and over again to complete a single puzzle. Sometimes it would seem almost impossible to move forward. There are power-ups for purchase to help you along the way, but they are limited and easy to run through pretty quickly. Relying on power-ups to move on to the next level could get pretty expensive.
There are a few ways Candy Crush Saga sticks out, though. You may have already been playing the Flash version on Facebook, and if you have, all your progress will sync up with the iOS version once you connect to Facebook. This is incredibly appealing as there are some pretty difficult levels I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to replaying. At the same time, the power-ups work a bit differently on Facebook, so if you find yourself so inclined, you can switch to your computer if you need a bit more juice. Connecting to Facebook with Candy Crush Saga also allows you to see your friends’ progress, whether they’ve played the desktop or iOS versions of the game.
Candy Crush Saga is absolutely adorable. The graphics are charming, and the bright and cheerful gameboards never look dated or boring. The intro and achievement screens between levels are really cute, in the very best way, with inventive graphics that are perfectly suited to a game about a (more or less) 2D candy factory.
The music is absolutely infectious, and though I haven’t played the game in a couple of days, I’m unabashedly humming the main song to myself now. There’s a sort of whistling bit, and my husband, a big fan of whistling, can be heard reinterpreting the Candy Crush Saga puzzle song all over the house. The music is cute and fun but never really starts to grate.
The Inevitable Toothache
There were some big problems with Candy Crush Saga, though. The game quickly becomes nigh impossible without the power-ups. I managed to press on and advanced pretty far by virtue of sheer grit, but I hit more walls along the way. I’m absolutely not opposed to in app purchases or showing the developers a little money love, but the power-ups run out pretty quickly. Some of them are really expensive, too, the top of the line being $39.99. That just seems like way too much to get through the next level of a match-three iOS game. While most of the in-app purchases were reasonable, the top tier, repeatedly advertised in the game, were just silly.
The biggest problem for Candy Crush Saga, though, is the life system. You get five lives when you start playing, and they are depleted after failing to complete a level or several levels five times. Your life meter will slowly fill back up, one life every half hour or so, but that seems more than a little ridiculous for such an addictive game. It was a real disappointment to work hard and, yes, sometimes fail to get through several levels only to have my progress blocked. You can get more lives by calling on your Facebook friends, but who really wants to be that guy?
Candy Crush Saga is a real joy to play, that is, when I can play it. I can’t give it a wholehearted endorsement when I know I’ve still got fifteen minutes before I can even get going again. It’s also insanely hard to move forward, an attempt to get you to invest in the in-app purchases, purchases that can be ridiculously expensive.
Despite all that, I’m still playing it weeks after I first downloaded the game. It’s still fun; frustrating, certainly, but fun. I have and will continue to play the same board over and over again, because I really want to refill that lemonade lake and make the dragon smile. While Candy Crush Saga is far from perfect, it’s certainly fun to play, and that’s what I want from a game.