If you’ve spent any amount of time playing Flash games instead of whatever you SHOULD have been doing, you’ve probably played Bejeweled. It’s a gem-matching game where lining up three or more of the same color cancels out the set. Now a very similar game has come out for the iPhone and it blends the classic gem game with something resembling a Role Playing Game (RPG).
App Store Link) is a free App for the iPhone and iPod Touch. It has a lot to offer: a fun matching game, several innovative uses of the iPhone’s advanced hardware, and a large number of RPG-like features. The graphics are fairly good and, giving it a little leeway for being a part of the App Store launch, it is fairly stable as well. There are some bugs, but the developers seem to be working on most of the big stuff.(
The game starts out fairly simply. In the beginning you choose a character class – pictured here in the Character screen. There doesn’t seem to be a lot to the class system (there are only two classes), but if you’re going to build an RPG, I guess it’s pretty crucial to have “giant cows” against “elven humanoids.” It also serves to differentiate between the users in your party when you use the community features.
You begin with the “mining game,” which is how you spend most of your time in Aurora Feint. In the mine, blocks, or “resources,” come up from the bottom and can be dragged around horizontally so that they match and dissolve. There are five types of resource and each one needs to be collected in certain quantities for later tasks. There are predictable bonuses from causing chain reactions, but to the untrained eye, there is nothing to this game that cannot be found elsewhere.
Fortunately, little tool-tips pop up for the first few levels and guide you through the game. One of the first, most helpful tips is that rotating the phone horizontally or even inverting it will change the gravity of the game. This means that the blocks all fall as far as they can to the new “down” and the horizontal movements you can make are perpendicular to those you could make before. It is a tad hard to describe, but this is very intuitive in the game. Turning the phone completely upside-down does what you would expect, but it also adds a new line of blocks at the same time, which makes life harder, not easier.
Another interesting feature in the mine is the way in which blocks can be manually advanced. Normally the game pushes the blocks – excuse me, “resources” – toward the top of the screen. If the blocks get near the top they begin to quiver, a very helpful indicator of danger. When they reach the top, you lose the level and have to start over. If you find you are defeating the rows of “resources” faster than they are advancing, a two-finger drag anywhere in the game area will bring more blocks upward. Unfortunately it doesn’t let you push them back down, but that would probably be too easy.
So what of these “RPG” features? Well as soon as you finish any mining level you are immediately taken to “The Store,” where you can buy blueprints and magicbooks. These are the precursors to all advancement in the game.
Blueprints can be used in “The Smith” and turned into new tools, weapons, and armor. They are generally related to the kind of skill set you are pursuing. When “smithing,” you must play the mining game, but with a twist. There is a clock going at the top and you must collect a certain amount of several different resources before the time runs out. This forces you to play differently than you normally might, pulling up more blocks with the two-finger gesture in order to seek out specific resources.
Magicbooks, on the other hand, are attempted in “The Tower.” These are more like strategy games. You must clear the board of all the resources (which have the appearance of glass globes) with only the limited number of moves indicated on the screen. They start out very simple, but they eventually become more thought provoking. Some users on the Aurora Feint forums even seem to think the last magicbook is impossible.
What do all of these side games get you? Added abilities of course! The blueprints give the most influential abilities and are described in the next paragraph. Thus far, the magicbooks only give multipliers for the various resource types.
While it is possible to create armor and weapons with blueprints, the major reason to go to The Smith is to create tools. Unlike weapons, which seem to have no purpose or effect on the game, tools actually appear in the mining game and can be added to the smithing game. Whenever one of them is matched to two like blocks of any color, the group dissolves and the tool releases it’s specific power. Some of the tools slow down the game, some create bonuses, and some simply destroy more blocks than usual. They tend to spice up the game for the higher-level player who has earned a few of them.
Tip: I’m not completely certain, but I noticed the tools only began appearing after I clicked on them in the inventory screen. This may not be necessary, but it may help you if you don’t see them immediately after you earn them.
This game has a great deal of potential and already has me in its addictive clutches. Make sure you budget out some time to play it or it will simply take away from other things you really need to get done. Hopefully the documentation for the game will get better, as some of the features are a complete mystery. Until then, look in the aforementioned forums for help with the game.