That merge mechanic instantly put me in mind of this recent gem. Evergarden is no idle clicker - it actually makes you think (shock horror!) for your fun. But at its core it's all about combining two identical items to form a single evolved form, and then repeating.
In this case, though, you have to do so within the constrained hexagonal grid of a matching puzzler. The items themselves are plants, and there are a bunch of critters looking to munch on your carefully cultivated rows.
Continuing that thought process back in time, it was Triple Town that first made the whole merging mechanic popular on mobile. Spry Fox's cute puzzler has you pulling together villages and cities from grass and trees, all in a compelling match-three puzzler format.
Watch out for those destructive bears. They'll cause you all manner of trouble, but if you can corral three together... well, we won't spoil it for you.
You want another compelling but cute idle clicker? Dungeon, Inc could be your next jam. It's got a beautiful cartoon art style, a clever dungeon-building premise, and a unique twist on the idle clicker formula with PvP battles.
We don't normally associate this genre with fresh ideas, but Dungeon, Inc. is bursting with them.