Whether you play games on Facebook or casual games on the PC and Android / iOS devices, you can’t have failed to notice that both seem to have been plagued by an almost never-ending stream of “match three” titles. No doubt worse on the PC and mobile devices, it’s an incredibly simple genre for developers to work in that doesn’t really require a great deal of creativity when it comes to originality and as a gamer, when you’ve played one with just a few exceptions to the rule, you’ve pretty much played them all.
To look at screenshots of Crystal Ice, you could easily be mistaken into thinking that you’re going to be faced with yet another match three game but this time for PlayStation Mobile but you’ll be in for a rather pleasant surprise. There are three game modes on offer – Marathon, Challenge and Puzzle, and each of these play in completely different ways. While the Challenge mode is based on the Marathon mode, Puzzle is almost an entirely new game all in itself so I’ll come onto that shortly.
Marathon mode is the main thrust of the game.At the bottom of the screen is a row of crystals. Using the touch screen these can be dragged individually onto the main play area onto any of the empty ice blocks that are on the screen. These fall down from the top of the screen gradually as you play at random across the screen and need to be removed before they reach the top of the screen. To remove them you need to arrange three or more of the same coloured crystals together – vertically, horizontally or in any block and then tap on that group. The crystals and blocks of ice beneath them will shatter and all of the cubes in the column above them will drop moving any crystals down with them.
In terms of the crystals themselves, as long as you place these on empty blocks of ice, they can be placed anywhere on the screen giving you a great deal of freedom in trying to create as many large chains of crystals as you can. The larger the group of crystals you form, the more points each are worth but if the blocks of ice reach the top of the screen, you only have ten seconds to clear them away before it’s game over! At the bottom of the screen, you can see what colour crystal you will be able to place next as upcoming crystals are displayed in a row, with each taken from the left or right alternating helping you to plan out your next move. Once you have cleared a set number of blocks, the screen is cleared and you move onto the next tougher and faster level and so on… The game continues indefinitely progressing through the levels until the ice blocks reach the top of the screen for too long on any given level.
The Challenge Mode adds a twist to this… The basic gameplay stays the same as the Marathon Mode but is spread over a series of fixed levels. Each one sets the player a specific challenge to meet. Some will require you to score a set amount playing a single level, others are played against strict time limits and stars are awarded depending on your performance. Complete each challenge successfully and you can progress onto the next. Puzzle Mode takes the game in a completely different direction. Rather than being played against the clock or having to place crystals yourself, each of the levels in this mode starts off filled with blocks already containing crystals. What you have to do here is selectively remove groups of blocks containing adjoining crystals until you have removed all of the blocks from the screen in as few moves as possible. No fresh blocks or crystals are added to each level during play so you have to think carefully and choose wisely so that all the blocks above the ones you are removing are still able to be removed remembering that you can only remove groups of three or more crystals. If any are left with just a single or two adjoining crystals then they can’t be removed and the level needs to be restarted!
Each of the three game modes are fantastically playable in their own right. The Marathon mode is incredibly addictive and a wonderfully fun experience and while the earlier levels ease you into the game gently, the difficulty curve is balanced well and will not only grip you while playing but have you tearing your hair out as you race to drag crystals into place frantically as the timer ticks away and if you do manage to get onto the high score table, you get a real sense of achievement. The Puzzle Mode again has easier levels to start off with but will soon leave you scratching your head but not to the point that you’ll be too frustrated to want to return to the game ever again and the Challenge Mode will provide enough for even the most hardened of puzzle game addicts to keep them hooked!
Visually Crystal Ice is an absolute treat. The graphics have a frosted, crystal look throughout as the title suggests and are well animated and are lavished with great visual effects as you remove blocks of crystals from play. Menus are crisp and clear to read and understand and no matter how much is on the screen, it never looks cluttered. Sound is just as impressive. There are some superb sound effects with sounds of crashing glass each time ice blocks are removed and plenty of music throughout with a range of pieces used. I did notice some very slight background noise on some of the music but this is down to the sample rate used in order to include as much music as possible in the game while still keeping the file size down. This could be improved quite easily but the trade off would result in the game being closer to 100Mb rather than the 54Mb it currently occupies on the memory card.
Sadly, there are a couple of bugs in the game which I hope are rectified in a future update and it’s these that stop Crystal Ice from making it into our Top 25 PlayStation Mobile Games list at the moment. The first, I encountered was when I achieved a high score on the Marathon Mode. Once I entered my name, before I had pressed the button to confirm in the pop-up window, I accidentally pressed the play button to start a new game which was in the main game area underneath. The new game started under the pop-up window and I was unable to close the high score window, obscuring the game completely.
After this had happened, it seemed to open up additional bugs… while I was able to go into the Challenge and Puzzle Modes, neither of these would actually let me play any of the levels on offer until I had quit out of the game completely and re-started it. While it wasn’t a major issue and hopefully is something that the team at The Liverpool Office can find a solution for quickly, it was irritating nevertheless.
These didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the game itself though. It’s an incredibly addictive puzzler and I’d say one of the best so far to grace PlayStation Mobile. More astonishingly is the fact that a game this polished was developed in under two months from start to finish. If this is what they are capable of, I can’t wait to see what else they have in store for us. Each of the three game modes offered here could work well enough as a stand alone game but having all three in a single package makes this a must have purchase for all puzzle addicts and it’s a game that you’ll be playing for a long time to come!
At A Glance
- Title: Crystal Ice
- Publisher:The Liverpool Office
- System: PlayStation Mobile
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: N / A
- Cross Play: N / A
- Online Multiplayer: No (Leaderboards coming soon)
- Memory Card Space Needed: 54Mb