Candy Crush Saga is the latest entry in King.com’s increasingly expansive “Saga” series of Facebook games. It’s a match-3 puzzler, but combines enough twists on the formula to make it worthy of note.
The basic mechanics of Candy Crush Saga will be immediately familiar to anyone who’s spent time with the match-3 genre. By swapping colored candies and making horizontal or vertical lines of three or more like-colored sweets, players may clear space for more candies to fall and score points. Matching more than three candies at once in different arrangements produces special sweets which have beneficial effects — some clear a whole line of the board, some explode and destroy all candies in the spaces around them and some destroy all candies of a specific color on the board.
So far so Bejeweled. Candy Crush Saga then adds a few twists on this well-worn basic formula. Firstly, the play area isn’t always square. Sometimes it is irregularly-shaped around the edges, meaning that candies can shift from one column to another as they fall; and sometimes there are holes in the middle, which candies can fall behind but the player may not swap sweets into.
The second twist comes in the form of various different level types. Rather than simply attempting to score as many points as possible, Candy Crush Saga provides several different objectives for players to complete. Sometimes they’ll have to beat point targets. Sometimes they’ll have to clear jelly from the board by matching candies on top of it. Sometimes they’ll have to cause specific “ingredient” items to drop to the bottom of the play area. There is usually a move limit for players to contend with, with players losing a life if they fail to complete the level’s objectives quickly enough. Lives restore over time or may be replenished by asking friends or spending Facebook Credits.
The game monetizes through the sale of various boosters and items which unlock as the player progresses through the levels. Items may be used during play to knock out troublesome candies or provide the player with extra moves, while boosters appear in the form of special gems which have beneficial effects on the player’s progress — for example, matching a colored fish in a group causes it to swim off and return with a group of friends who will destroy a series of random candies on the board. The main trouble with these boosts and items is that the game doesn’t explain them prominently enough — clicking on an item when the player has one simply uses it, and no tooltips pop up to inform the player what said item is for. An explanation does pop up when the player purchases new items, but since they will have already used them at least once by this point, that’s a little too late.
There are a few other little niggles like this throughout the game — “hints” are provided to the player during play, for example, highlighting matches which may be made, but there are two problems with this. Firstly, they pop up far too quickly while the player is searching for their own matches, causing unwelcome distraction; and secondly, they often simply don’t provide a particularly helpful move, particularly on the “jelly” levels where moves are at a premium.
Despite these few flaws — many of which could be easily rectified in future updates — Candy Crush Saga is a good game. It features a high degree of audio-visual polish (though the overly-short background music loop will likely be switched off by most users immediately); it uses an endearing “cardboard theater” aesthetic for its superfluous but entertaining “story” sequences; it’s well-paced and balanced; and its social and monetization features are kept subtle rather than thrust into the player’s face at every opportunity. If King.com’s past titles — particularly Bubble Witch Saga — are anything to go by, Candy Crush Saga has a bright future ahead of it.
Candy Crush Saga launched this week and currently has 30,000 monthly active users and 10,000 daily active users. Follow its progress with AppData, our traffic tracking service for social games and developers.
While the underlying mechanics may be very conventional, Candy Crush Saga is an excellent quality game with a bright future ahead of it.