How much do Xbox Live Achievements affect your enjoyment of a game? The best Achievements enhance the gameplay experience, simultaneously rewarding progress and encouraging players to experience the game in new ways. Sometimes we see games whose Achievement difficulty doesn’t match their casual nature – Doodle Jump and Harbor Master to name only two. There are also poor games whose only redeeming value is the easiness of their Achievements (hello, Butterfly!). And then comes Collapse! from GameHouse. A good game with easy Achievements, but there is such a thing as too easy.
Head past the jump for our full review.
All screenshots taken from the iPhone version as the WP7 Marketplace shots don't represent how the game really looks.
Collapse! is a match-3 puzzle game in which blocks rise from the bottom of the screen, threatening to reach the top and end the game. Touching groups of three or more adjacent same-colored blocks removes them. Unlike many games of this type, there is no combo system, as blocks don’t automatically match up with others and disappear when they fall on them. But Collapse! retains an element of strategy in that removing (for example) the yellow blocks in between two groups of red blocks allows all of the red blocks to touch. The red blocks can then be eliminated in a single turn instead of two separate turns, earning extra points in the process.
The meat of Collapse! centers around Quest mode. Quest features a rudimentary story about various lands becoming mysteriously polluted. To revitalize the environment, players travel around a large map, completing over 70 different levels along the way. The story itself is even more basic than the ones found in Bubble Town 2, but I’ll take a few short story scenes over that game’s too-frequent and inane dialogue any day of the week. And Collapse! doesn’t look like a dog ate some crayons and then threw up on it, always a plus.
Several different game types make up the Quest Mode. Once players complete a level of any type, that mode is unlocked in Quick Play mode.
- Classic: The basic Collapse! experience as I described above. Simple and fun.
- Relapse: New lines of blocks come from both the top and bottom of the screen. If either set collides, you fail the level.
- Strategy: This works a lot like Classic, except new lines only appear after the player makes a few moves instead of appearing as time passes.
- Puzzle: These levels resemble the monster capturing puzzles in Puzzle Quest. Each puzzle level contains a unique arrangement of colored blocks. Players must match them in the proper order in order to knock them out. If any stray blocks remain at the end, you fail the puzzle.
- Panic Attack: On top of the Classic rules, blocks also fall from the sky onto the stack below. Matching five or more blocks prevents them from falling for a while.
- Continuous: Basically a survival version of Classic mode. Play as long as you can without dying.
- Countdown: A two-minute version of Classic that emphasizes scoring points as quickly as possible.
Each of the five lands in Quest mode is punctuated by a climactic boss battle. These hostile creatures jump or fly around the screen and attack the player in various ways, including raising columns of blocks, spraying ink clouds to obscure the screen, and turning the lights down to make everything darker. Boss altercations add a welcome dose of challenge and variety.
The final boss battle works differently. It’s sort of a reverse tug of war battle in which the loser gets hit by a bomb. The player and boss alternate turns, making three moves per turn. If either party allows the blocks to reach the top of the screen, he or she loses one move. Matching large groups of blocks sends the bomb towards your opponent and vice-versa. This seems like a tough fight, but smart use of powerups will send the bomb at the boss before he knows what hit him.
There are two ways to use powerups: touch the ones that appear randomly, or buy them from the shop. Different types of bombs can clear the screen of certain colored blocks, all of the blocks in a specific radius, etc. Of course, the shop doesn’t just give these things away for free.
Taking care of business
Complete levels to earn money. Every level has a Gold Medal objective that awards more money if completed. These objectives are mostly easy, such as beating time limits or meeting specific score goals. However, one objective significantly ratchets up the challenge: keeping the blocks below a certain line on the screen. Later in the game, that can be impossible to do without quick fingers and smart powerup use. Replaying early Puzzle levels is the fastest way to make money, incidentally.
On top of purchasing powerups, the shop also sells permanent upgrades and heroine. Wait, not the heroine. Upgrades increase the money earned from beating levels (buy that first!), the number of powerups players can carry, and the effects of different powerups. Gamers can also change their little blue character’s outfit in the shop. It’s cute creating a mermaid who wears a sombrero, but there aren’t enough outfits to allow for much customization.
Now we come to the reason that most hardcore gamers will buy Collapse! - Xbox Live Achievements. For whatever reason, nine of the game’s ten Achievements are simple goals that can be completed during any normal game level. One of the goals requires players to beat a level without using powerups; you don’t get any powerups in the first Quest level so it unlocks automatically! Of these nine goals, the only one that requires any kind of effort is “Huge Buster,” for knocking out 40 blocks at once. But it shouldn’t take more than a few tries to set that up by allowing the screen to fill up with mostly one color of blocks during an early Quest level.
The tenth Achievement, for beating a Puzzle level under par, will take slightly longer than the rest since Puzzle levels don’t pop up until the second major area of Quest. But even then, most players will grab all the Achievements in 20 minutes or less. Is that a good or bad thing? Just giving away every single Achievement kind of takes the sport out of it. At the very least, adding an Achievement for completing Quest mode would have actually encouraged players to stick with the game for more than a few minutes. Due to that obvious omission, many people will just buy Collapse!, snag the Achievements, and move on to other pursuits.
Collapse! epitomizes what Ken Murphy of GameHouse told us about casual games: it’s got simple touch screen controls, easy to grasp rules of gameplay, and it adds a bit of complexity and challenge as the game goes on. Hardcore gamers may be put off by the casual trappings, but anyone looking for a simple puzzle game will have fun. The game’s Achievements are a missed opportunity to extend its playtime and increase enjoyment. But they’re so darn easy, they certainly make Collapse! the perfect buy to increase one’s GamerScore. Just try to keep playing for a while after you’ve got the 200 GamerScore, guys.
Collapse! costs $2.99 and there is a free trial. Get it here on the Marketplace.