Zynga has a way of doing things with its original games: observe the market for popular trends, then release its own highly-polished take on the genre. It’s honestly surprising that the company hasn’t turned its hand to the consistently-lucrative “match-3″ arcade puzzle genre before now, but Ruby Blast changes all that with a variation on the formula popularized by Wooga’s Diamond Dash.
Zynga’s approach often draws accusations of cloning, and it’s easy to see why — but in many cases, the company takes the time to add its own twist on the formula its new game has been “inspired by” rather than simply making an exact copy. In the case of Ruby Blast, the game combines elements from two different puzzle titles: the frantic group-clicking of Wooga’s Facebook-based Diamond Dash with the “digging” mechanic from the “Diamond Mine” mode in PopCap’s standalone PC and Mac title Bejeweled 3.
Gameplay in Ruby Blast is very simple and easy to understand, though Zynga feels it necessary for the player’s first two full games to have intrusive tutorials get in the way rather than just letting them play. Against the clock, players must click on contiguous groups of three or more gems to make them disappear. If the destroyed group is adjacent to a layer of bedrock at the bottom of the screen, the rock is also destroyed. If all the rock above the on-screen line is destroyed, the player “digs down” and is rewarded with additional time. Bonus items such as score multipliers and rubies (which act as experience points) may sometimes be found within the rock, and as the player gains in levels, they gain access to various powerups to make the process of clearing the board easier — though these need to be “charged” before use by matching gems of a specific color. Like most other “Blitz” puzzlers, these powerups cost soft currency to activate. Up to three powerups may be used at any one time, but they are all level-locked and may not be acquired early through expending hard currency as in some other games.
The game monetizes through sales of both soft and hard currency. Soft currency is reserved for the activation of powerups, while hard currency is used to purchase 15-second “time extensions” at the end of a game or refill the player’s energy bar, which is expended five points at a time. Social features include the seemingly-obligatory weekly tournament and the ability to earn more rubies (and thus level quicker) the more of a player’s Facebook friends that are playing.
One of the most noteworthy things about Ruby Blast is its excellent presentation — though a high degree of polish is not unusual for a Zynga title. The game makes use of Flash 11, allowing the game’s special effects to be rendered by the computer’s graphics processor rather than the CPU itself. This means very smooth animation as well as visually-pleasing special effects such as the game going “out of focus” when the player performs a Facebook action such as viewing their notifications. It’s certainly a noteworthy step forward in presentation for Facebook titles, even if the gameplay is rather familiar.
The quick-fire play and addictive nature of “Blitz” puzzlers coupled with the good presentation and solid gameplay is likely to make Ruby Blast a big success on Facebook. It remains to be seen whether or not it will be able to dethrone the more well-established big-hitters of the arcade puzzle genre, however.
Ruby Blast is not yet listed on our traffic tracking service AppData as it is so new. Check back shortly to follow its progress with detailed breakdowns of MAU, DAU and user retention figures.
Zynga doing what it does best — a highly polished twist on a well-established formula.