East Side Games evolves NomNom Combo with new version 2.0 update

NomNom Combo from East Side Games is an iOS-based match-3 puzzler with mechanics similar to Spry Fox’s Triple Town, but enough of its own unique mechanics to make it abundantly clear that it is far from being a simple clone. We reviewed it back in February and praised the title for its inventive take on the “match-3” genre.

The game has recently been updated to version 2.0, and East Side Games believes that the new additions make the game a significantly different — and hopefully better — experience, so we decided to revisit it and see what’s new.

Firstly, the presentation has undergone a complete overhaul. While the “predator” and “prey” playing pieces are the same as they always were, the interface has been revamped somewhat to reflect the new game mechanics, one of which is a gradually-evolving board shape. While the original version of the game took place on a fixed six-by-six grid similar to Triple Town, version 2.0 begins on a small cross-shaped play area. As the player earns points, the board gradually expands, providing more space in which to create matches and combos. This makes the beginning of the game considerably more challenging, as there is limited space in which to place pieces. Once the board expands, the game theoretically becomes easier, but by this point the player will likely be running low on moves, meaning they will have to place pieces more carefully to maximize their score.

A new leveling system has been added to provide a sense of progression. Rather than taking the “experience points” approach, however, East Side has chosen to go with a quest-based system similar to that seen in Halfbrick’s Jetpack Joyride and Activision’s Skylanders Cloud Patrol. Each level requires a certain number of stars to attain, and various objectives (ranging from “score [x] points” to “buy [x] of a specific item”) earn a particular number of stars according to the difficulty or complexity of the objective. Upon gaining a level, the player is given various bonuses including extra in-game currency and moves to spend on their current game. These objectives encourage players to try out all the game mechanics — and particularly to take advantage of the in-game shop, where they may purchase specific pieces to place on the board using virtual currency. Said virtual currency may be earned at a good rate simply by playing the game or through in-app purchase.

A key concept in NomNom Combo is matching three of the same prey or predator to create a new, higher-level animal. Every time a new match is made for the first time in a new game, a spinner appears, offering a variety of bonuses ranging from extra moves to bonus currency. This mechanic, like the objectives system, encourages players to be adventurous with their play in exchange for greater rewards.

The new edition also now features much stronger social functionality. Along with the original version’s Game Center support, the game now connects with Facebook, allowing players to invite friends and brag about their high scores on their Timeline. This will likely help with viral promotion beyond simple word-of-mouth.

Version 2.0 of the game also features a broader monetization strategy. Besides the original version’s facility to purchase in-game currency, the new (free-to-play) version is ad-supported and features several tiers of paid “upgrade,” the first of which removes all advertising and increases the initial move limit for a game. Players must purchase previous tiers of upgrade prior to purchasing the next, however, meaning they may not jump straight to the $9.99 “Pro” level without first buying the $0.99 “Starter” and $4.99 “Booster” packs. It would have perhaps been a good idea for players to be able to see what the later upgrades offer before having to purchase anything — as it stands, some players may shy away from buying “blind,” as it were.