EA’s refreshing take on the match-X puzzler…
Yeah, yeah. I know what you are thinking, why am I reviewing yet another take on the match-X genre after I consistently moan and groan over their over-existence! Well, call me a sucker, because when they are done right, and offer more than just a straight clone job, I can’t help myself!
Liqua Pop is one such take.
In the game you are presented with a leaf, on which droplets of rain water gather in number. Much like other match-X games you must eliminate shapes by matching up three or more of a certain colour – in this case the shapes are the water droplets. However, unlike other games, you don’t simply switch or rotate the shapes to match them, instead you must combine them into larger droplets by dragging them into each other. Right off the bat this offers up a refreshing take on the gameplay dynamic.
Once a droplet is big enough it will begin a countdown before popping. You can delay the countdown by tapping it, allowing you to grow the droplet further. Or, you can force it to pop earlier by shaking the device – essential if the game board is full to bursting, or if you want to pop multiple droplets simultaneously for score combos. The level is complete, not when you have popped all the droplets but when your score is high enough, which is represented by a small tree frog climbing slowly up the side of the screen.
Creating large droplets and popping them is as relaxing as it is fun, but the games difficulty soon ramps up to a more frantic pace. Bugs within some water droplets act as power-ups. On being released from a popping bubble they unleash their power. Some simply increase your score multiplier, while others help you by changing colour of neighbouring droplets, or exploding and taking them out. As you progress through the levels, you unlock more types of bug and of course they are not always welcome additions to your arsenal. Some bugs, such as the void bug, turns the droplets into un-movable and un-combinable ones, which can only be popped by exploding bugs. Later levels then become quite strategic on which colours you merge and pop first, in order to counter any void droplets quickly with bomb droplets.
I love the presentation in Liqua Pop. The liquid effects are incredibly realistic and fluid, particularly on the retina display. And, as I mentioned before, the game is very relaxing early on, playing almost like a stress toy. Little effects like how light reflects through the leaf background and the occasionally silhouette of a bug on the other side adds to the calming realism, and nature-based sound effects and ambient music round off the experience.
The game is perfectly made for the touchscreen. Combining touch and shake controls, the droplets are easily and intuitively dragged into place and merged together, and popped with a quick shake of the wrist.
There is nothing beyond the initial linear path through the levels (in which you can continue from where last reached), other than aiming for high scores. A multiplayer option would be a welcome addition, as always. But, it really isn’t a noticeable loss. This game is geared towards the uber-casual market, and as such will no doubt be launched on the commute home, to wind down after a hard days work. To say that there isn’t a game here for the more hardcore of you though, would be doing this game a disservice, as there is certainly a challenge there for all gamers.
The high presentation of Liqua Pop is the icing on the cake to a simple and fun puzzler with great controls and an original take on a classic formula. For only $1.99 I’d seriously recommend picking this up, especially if, like me, you are having withdrawal symptoms for the match-X puzzle genre.
Liqua Pop is out now for $1.99. Get it on the