Fruit Blast Mania (iOS) review

IMG_2405Fruit Blast Mania (known as Fruit Mania in the U.K.) is a new iOS game from TeamLava and Storm8. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, and carries additional in-app purchases.

Fruit Blast Mania is a color-matching puzzler in the Diamond Dash mold — that is, its basic mechanic requires the player to spot groups of two or more like-colored objects that are orthogonally adjacent to each other, then click on them to make them disappear. Making larger groups disappear at once scores more points, and leaving gaps in the arrangement will cause objects to “fall” down from above to fill the gap — or, in the case of gaps of a column or more in width, to “fall” sideways to ensure the remaining objects continue to be arranged in a single group.

Rather than taking the “blitz” approach as in Diamond Dash and many of its ilk, however, Fruit Blast Mania is based around a linear series of objective-based levels. In some levels, you’ll have to drop baby animals down to the bottom of the screen by clearing objects out from underneath them. In others you’ll have to fill a meter by clearing specific colors in groups as large as possible. In some you’ll have a move limit; in others the level will be taller than the screen. Later levels include optional “challenges” that can earn players additional rewards if they are completed in addition to the level’s usual objectives. If you run out of moves or get yourself into a situation where the objective has not been completed and there are no more available matches, the level is failed, though this being a free-to-play game there is, of course, a means of attempting to buy your way out of failure either with additional moves or dropping new objects into the arrangement. This is not a guarantee of success, however.

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The game monetizes through several different avenues. Soft and hard currency may be acquired through in-app purchase, and these are used to purchase “boosters” before each level, which offer players various special abilities to give them an advantage in the coming level. The precise selection of boosters available varies by level, and more boosters seem to only be available with hard currency than soft, meaning that an in-app purchase will probably be required if players would like to take advantage of them. Hard currency may also be used to restore the game’s play-throttling energy system, which is actually closer in execution to the “lives” system seen in King’s titles — it costs energy to begin playing a level, but so long as the player attains a score worth at least two stars and completes the objective, they get that energy point back at the level’s conclusion. In this manner, players may continue playing for as long as they are skilled and/or lucky.

Social features for the game are limited to Facebook connectivity, which is used to allow players to compete against their friends for the best score on each level. There does not appear to be any means of directly communicating with other players. For those who do not have any Facebook friends playing the game, a series of “fake friends” are provided to give the player a series of score milestones to aim for if they want an additional challenge — topping the leaderboard doesn’t really mean anything since this is largely a single-player experience, but it’s a good means for players to measure how well they are playing.

On the whole, Fruit Blast Mania is a decent puzzle game despite being based on an overused and frankly rather tired basic mechanic. There are, however, enough distinguishing factors between this game and the numerous other Diamond Dash-inspired titles out there on the market to make this worth a play, and the game is well-presented despite having some rather irritating mascot characters. Whether or not it will capture the public’s imagination on a large scale remains to be seen, but this is certainly a worthy addition to the game library of any free-to-play puzzle fans.

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We’ve seen the basic mechanic many times before prior to now, but Fruit Blast Mania offers enough twists and variants to make it worth a shot.