Despite the neverending stream of match-three games, it appears that if they try hard enough a developer can always come up with a new twist.
US studio Ratloop has been imaginative when it comes to Helsing's Fire, a game that's perhaps best described as an action light-based colour sequence puzzler.
Put that way it might not sound too exciting, but with strong graphics and a theme of taking out vampires, mummies, werewolves, and other servants of Dracula, there's enough of a gothic tinge for the Twilight generation to take notice.Let the purification begin
Like all good puzzle games, Helsing's Fire takes some time to reveal all its features. You begin with the basics: placing Helsing's torch and using his assistant Raffton's coloured tonics.
Each of the 90 levels is set in a crypt-like location, with various evil and static creatures scattered around.
In order to send them back to hell and collect the resulting piles of gold, you have to move a finger across the level to illuminate enemies with the torch's rays. This requires subtle positioning, because while rays of light will shine on some characters, you'll often want others to remain in the shadows.
It's important because each monster is coloured - red, blue, or green - and once illuminated you can only kill them by tapping on the appropriately coloured tonic. Zap a monster with the wrong colour and it will gain a defensive ring of that colour, which then has to be zapped off before you can kill them. As your tonics are strictly limited, this generally means you have to restart the level.Mummy returns
Your score is based on speed of completion, although there's no real reward for being fast other than a high spot on the leaderboards on the Crystal social network.
Over time gameplay builds, with creatures surrounded by increasingly varied rings of colour, forcing you to think about the order in which you need to illuminate them and deploy your tonics. It's never too tricky but on occasion you need to take a couple of attempts to get the order correct. If you get stuck, levels are made accessible in groups of five, so you can usually attempt another one.
Further complications come with the range of creatures you're set against. Zapped werewolves turn into maidens, who obviously aren't then allowed to be zapped. Ghosts disappear when they're illuminated, providing a memory test, while other monster types will try to put out your torch, either by throwing things at it or emitting cursed shadows.
You're given three torches per level, but during the third set of 30 levels the pace of the game accelerates with more active creatures present, requiring you to keep moving your torch between zaps to maintain its holy light.
Light at the end of the tunnel
Indeed, the change is one of the slight disappointments of Helsing's Fire, as the more thought-provoking and carefully designed puzzles of the second set of 30 levels are replaced with situations that require less thinking and faster fingers.
There's plenty of potential to craft a much more challenging experience based on this design - something Ratloop will hopefully consider.
But working through the game, which takes around 90 minutes, is a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It's also good value considering the 99c price tag and the fact you can unlock endless Survival modes for each of the three locations available.
All-in-all, then, another victory for gaming goodness over the dark powers of match-three puzzlers.