Game Review: Chain Reaction (PlayStation Mobile)

EP Chain Reaction PlayStation Mobile

Admit it… as gamers there aren’t many things that are as satisfying as blowing things up. Why this carnal act appeals to us so much I don’t quite know, but that’s pretty much everything that there is to it with Chain Reaction…

Well, that’s not quite true. Chain Reaction is a bit more refined than that and it’s actually more of a puzzler than anything overtly violent so if you’re looking for something mindlessly destructive then you’re looking in the wrong place for this one. Instead, this Free To Play game is going to test your brain power rather than your manual dexterity but in this case, that’s certainly not a bad thing.

The concept is incredibly simple and at first glance Chain Reaction looks like it’s quite a bland game. You’re presented with a black screen with small coloured gems moving around the screen and what you have to do is tap one of them to detonate it. If any other gems get close to that explosion, then the game springs to live in a technicolour explosion and as more come into contact with that explosion the screen fills with a vast chain reaction (hence the game’s title) of exploding gems. The idea behind each level is to detonate a target number of gems so you can progress onto the next, tougher level… but as you would expect there’s a catch as you only have one attempt and you can only set off a single gem on each level so you have to watch the movement of all the gems and choose very carefully and get your timing absolutely right.

Points are scored for each gem that you destroy, with more points scored the larger the chain reaction that you create and while there are no specific goals to the game, you just have to progress as far as you can. As you move from one level to the next, your target number of gems increases as does the number of gems on screen to at least give you a fighting chance of success. There are no lives in the game so once you fail to reach the target on a particular level it’s game over. Once that happens, you’re given your final score and awared a number of Chain Points. These bonus points are based on your final score and you earn one for every 1,000 points you have scored in the game and you can use these to buy upgrades.

Only two upgrades are available but these have a major impact on the game. The first allows you to increase the range of the explosions and the second increases the duration of them – both essential in later levels. Early on the upgrades are easily affordable, but the cost in Chain Points rapidly increases making upgrading difficult to earn through straight gameplay. And there’s good reason for that…

And that’s because Chain Reaction has been released under the Free To Play model and while you can play the game quite happily and progress through the levels without having to pay anything, the game features microtransactions offering additional Chain Points that can be purchased in-game. This is where my real gripe is with the game. Once you’ve progressed from the first level in terms of upgrades, collecting Chain Points can be a slow and arduous task earning a single point for every 1,000 points you score during gameplay, but each upgrade costs an incredible amount of points. While the initial upgrades from Level 1 to Level 2 cost a total of 22 points for the two different upgrades on offer, to upgrade both to level 3 requires well over 200 Chain Points meaning that you would need to have notched up a cumulative score of over 200,000 points.

Okay, this isn’t too bad for those of you who are really addicted to the game and are happy playing for hours on end, but if you want to speed things up and rely of purchasing the points these work out at an astonishingly high price. The entry price is £0.99 for 25 points, £3.99 for 250 points rising to a staggering £47.99 for 25,000 points. I honestly can’t comprehend why anyone would spend so much on in-app purchases and I would have preferred to see the game released with a fixed asking price rather than adopt this approach. Infact, for anyone keen on paying for Chain Points in this way to accelerate upgrades would costs gamers almost £5 just to reach level 3 in upgrades and I have to ask whether that is really worth it? Even more worrying was upgrading beyond that. I upgraded the explosion size to Level 3 through playing alone and then the Chain Points needed to upgrade to Level 4 shot up to an astonishing 1,000 and to buy these would cost over £10! With these exponential price rises only the most foolhardy of gamers would pay for them.

This is the real downside for the game. Despite its simplicity, it looks absolutely fantastic when it’s in full flow and the varied range of background music means that the sound never grates or becomes repetitive or annoying. On the gameplay front itself, it’s incredibly compulsive and even though it only offers single-touch game mechanics it’s remarkably complex underneath and on some of the later levels you’ll be sitting there pondering your every move before making that crucial move and then watching every single explosion with baited breath hoping that each chain reaction will take you a step closer towards your goal. It’s genuinely edge-of-your-seat stuff and it’s that tension that it builds up that keeps you coming back time after time, not only to beat your personal best scores but to try to get further and further into the game.

Despite the fact that I really loved playing Chain Reaction, the high price of the Chain Points did leave something of a sour taste in my mouth. I’ve been only too happy to pay for in-game purchases before with Free To Play games but that’s usually been for content that has enhanced the game experience – additional levels, unlocking new game modes or features that have genuinely improved titles – but I do feel that asking gamers to pay to accelerate progress in this way that is designed to be unfairly slow becomes frustrating. I would have much rather seen some other more balanced options if F2P were the prefered distribution method for the game, or I would have even rather paid for the game outright and had the Free To Play option removed completely and had the Chain Points requirements greatly reduced and then the game would have been a far more attractive proposal.

As it stands, this is still a great game and one that I’d heartily recommend to anyone to download and play and I’d certainly strongly suggest that you make at least one Chain Points purchase to support the developers for the game, but as a payment model this is another example of F2P pricing making a fool out of gamers.

Simon Plumbe

At A Glance

  • Title: Chain Reaction
  • Publisher: EP Games
  • System: PlayStation Mobile
  • Format: PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: No
  • Online Multiplayer: No
  • Local Multiplayer: No
  • Memory Card Space Needed: 46Mb

Vita Player Rating - 08

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About Simon Plumbe 845 Articles
Husband, father and lifelong geek. Originally from the West Midlands, now spending my days in South Wales with my family and a house full of animals. Passionate about video games, especially retro gaming, the Commodore 64 and PlayStation Vita. Love pro wrestling, sci-fi and I'm an animal lover and vegetarian.Enjoyed this and my other articles? Why not buy me a coffee: http://ko-fi.com/simonplumbe

3 Comments

  1. Me? Pay for in-game purchases?

    Yeah right – you will never get me to pay for replenishable in-game purchases… Extra levels, extra characters and so forth yes, but never replenishable content or “upgrades”.

    Like the author of this review, I’d gladly pay for this game over the free-to-play model, but buggered if I’m going to pay for in-game purchases…

    If the developer is silly enough to go with a free-to-play pricing model, well they’re only hurting themselves.

  2. Being honest there are very few games out there these days that are 100% unique and it’s very easy to say that game X is a copy of game Y or what came first. The games industry has been around since the 70s and I’ll be honest and say that Boomshine wasn’t the first game to offer that particular type of gameplay mechanics and Chain Reaction won’t be the last.

    In terms of Chain Reaction itself, I don’t see how you can judge it to be a “lesser” game. After playing Boomshine I’d say that Chain Reaction has more depth to it, is more polished and is just a better game overall.

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