Let's be honest: if you're a fan of match-three puzzlers, you're hardly short on choice when it comes to the App Store.
That's a bit of a hurdle for Candy Crush Saga - yet another match-three iOS puzzler - but one that's quickly overcome by the simple fact that it's cute, clever and, initially, free.
At first glance, though, there isn't much to differentiate Candy Crush Saga from other similarly-styled puzzlers out there. Your goal is simple: swipe sweets around a grid to form a line of three or more, racking up enough points in the process to proceed.
Suck it and see
As you wind your way along the map, though, working through the game's impressively generous 155 stages, that familiar core formula slowly evolves into something a little more imaginative. You can, for instance, match four or more sweets to form special candy items that clear entire rows, columns, or even massive chunks of a stage. It's a simple addition, but one that proves integral to success as Candy Crush Saga starts to play around with objectives and grid layouts, creating ever-more-devious challenges to overcome. For example, some stages demand that you remove jelly segments by matching sweets in the foreground - quite a task when paired with awkwardly shaped grids and unpredictable sweet drops. In other stages, you're asked to gather specific items by forcing them off the bottom of the screen. Each new objective requires a different strategic approach, making for a satisfyingly cerebral puzzler.
Making a mint
The trouble is, maximum enjoyment comes at a cost thanks to Candy Crush Saga's free-to-play setup. Most consumables - from power-ups to continues - are far from mandatory, thankfully, but the game’s limited life system is harder to ignore. Once your lives expire, it's time to play the waiting game - the action grinding to a halt while you twiddle your thumbs or opt to buy more. It's a familiar free-to-play mechanic, of course, but hardly ideal for on-the-go gaming where immediacy is key. And as entertaining as Candy Crush Saga's match-three action is, why be forced to wait or pay when there are hundreds of less fussy, more engaging offerings out there? Candy Crush Saga's a sweet treat in some ways then, but one with a disappointingly bitter aftertaste.