When it comes to casual and mobile puzzle games, many developers practically clone Bejeweled and add some minor tweaks. However, GameLab has decided to take the core concept of match-three puzzlers and adapt it in a way that makes their iOS title, Last Temple, very familiar and different at the same time.
Released only recently, the $1.99 iPad and $0.99 iPhone renditions come highly recommended by their user base, and its no surprise why. Deceivingly simple, Last Temple is not so much a game about puzzle solving as it is about earning high scores. Making good use of the touch controls, it creates a zen-like experience that creates one of the more addictive puzzle experiences we’ve seen in a while. That said, the game is a little too on the easy side, even with 189 levels on iPad and 144 on iPhone.
First and foremost, Last Temple is a match-three puzzle game, meaning that players must match up three or more icons of the same type in order to remove them from the playing field. However, unlike Bejeweled, it doesn’t require players to swap icons around.
The idea of the game is to turn each hex-tile on the board blue by removing an icon from it. While this concept has been done before with casual web games, it usually requires the swapping mechanic.
Here, players use their finger to connect adjacent icons in an attempt to remove as many as possible quickly — kind of like the motion used to type on Swype for Android. The catch, is that the path the player draws can never cross itself, meaning that users can never double back. The more icons are removed, the higher the score, leading to a better medal rating (bronze, silver, or gold).
It requires a different way of thinking. Players are forced to look at whole big board, instead of hunting for one-off matches. There is also something visceral about tracing your finger around to destroy icons.
As the levels progress, more icon variety appears. Several different power-ups and obstacles begin littering the play field. This includes standards like as exploding icons and those that can connect any color icon. There are also grid spaces that are “locked” and must have something destroyed atop it several times. There’s even an interesting sort of slime obstacle that will periodically spread over the board. Things under it cannot be removed until an adjacent set of icons is destroyed.
Last Temple also comes with a handful of different game modes as well. One is a “Crystal Skull” level that requires users to connect sparsely placed skull icons in order to fill up a gauge, while another is done completely in the dark with small fairy creatures floating about, lighting up only part of the board.
There are also 99 other stages of the game that come in the form of “Challenges.” At the end of each puzzle, an explosion of gems bursts out, and the user must tap to collect them before they fall off the screen. These gems are then used to purchase and unlock more puzzles.
Even with the dark levels and challenges, the game still feels very easy. Special powers make it even easier; they let players rearrange the board or zap a single hex-space.
Of course, the ease is part of the addictiveness. While this might bore many potential users, the simplicity coupled with the zen-like appeal of matching up strings of icons make for a strong hook. In fact, along with the medal system for each level, Last Temple is also integrated into OpenFeint, which means there are plenty of other users to compete with via online leaderboards.
Overall, both the iPad and iPhone versions of Last Temple are excellent additions to either device. Though the game is a little easy as a match-three puzzle game, it changes up the way a player must think when matching up strings of icons. More than that though, its simplicity easily hooks the player, and the onset of high scores effectively keeps them there. With a novel and gratifying control scheme, Lost Temple is a game that comes very highly recommended.