Game Reviews

Match-Up! by Big Fish

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| Match-Up! by Big Fish
Match-Up! by Big Fish
| Match-Up! by Big Fish

Online gaming used to be the preserve of the hardcore gamer - first-person shootists with inhuman reaction times and role-players who spent more time in virtual worlds than in the real one.

Among the many things Apple's iOS platform has helped to change is that it's made competitive online multiplayer games accessible to the masses.

Match-Up! by Big Fish may have an unwieldy name, but it makes taking on random strangers at a video game in real time as simple and undaunting as possible.

Much like Zynga's casual online offerings, Match-Up doesn't require mastery of a tricky control system or hours of practice in order to memorise its levels. You just need to be cleverer and more alert than your opponents.

Smart casual

Match-Up actually offers three casual games in one, with each game also offering a number of variants.

Your mileage will vary, but for my money Word Rack is the best of the three. This comfortably familiar word game has you forming the best word possible out of a jumbled line of letters.

Mahjong, meanwhile, is the classic game of pairs - but this time against the clock, with your opponents also striving to clear the deck of oriental tiles as quickly as possible.

Qbeez, meanwhile, is a match-three puzzler of sorts - only you're clearing existing clusters of colours until the screen is empty. You can tilt your device to mix the field up a little.

All bets are off

All three games come with a number of variants, which pitch you into different types of competition - whether a large knock-out league table or an intimate high-stakes one-on-one competition.

As that last one suggests, for each round you have to pay from your in-game currency to enter (there's a free variant in each discipline), with the amount you 'bet' roughly commensurate with the possible rewards should you place highly.

This light gambling system adds an extra bite to what are three pretty bog-standard casual puzzle games.

There's an IAP system in case you want to boost your virtual coffers, but we found there was no need to do so. If you get hooked on the high-stakes games you might find yourself in need of a top-up, but a balanced approach should see you right.

Content is king

In isolation, none of Match-Up! by Big Fish's games is particularly exciting or fantastically executed. They're competent enough, but they lack the polish of a Scramble With Friends or a Draw Something.

However, the game as a whole wins out through its generosity of content, its thriving (at the time of writing) community of players that ensure you can always get a game, and the undoubted allure of its virtual reward system.

If you're eager to indulge in competitive online gaming without encountering the rage and intensity of the potty-mouthed 13-year-old Xbox Live crowd, it's not a bad way to get a taster.

Match-Up! by Big Fish

A generous package of casual online multiplayer games that, while not particularly distinguished in any single area, contains a generous spirit and a compelling risk-reward system