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ToyTopia Match-3 hands-on - First impressions of this intriguing toy-themed puzzler

ToyTopia Match-3 hands-on - First impressions of this intriguing toy-themed puzzler

Webzen, the Korean publisher best known for its popular MU series, took a sojourn away from the MMO space and into the realm of casual gaming recently, having soft launched a new, match-3 puzzler in select regions for Android devices. For the benefit of those still awaiting its release for their region or device, here is a preview of the toy-themed shenanigans you can look forward to when it’s finally available.

First impressions

ToyTopia Match-3 starts off in a setting that you may very well find yourself in when playing it for the first time; aboard a train on your commute home after a hard day’s work. Along the way you fall asleep and, after a mysterious conversation with an unknown entity, you awaken to find you’ve been transported to a world where all of your surroundings and all of the characters, including yourself, are a toy.

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The immediate impression you get from ToyTopia, with its cute cast of toy characters and charming isometric visuals, is one of an adventure RPG rather than a puzzle game, but ToyTopia is indeed very much a classic match-3 puzzler; just one that comes with a few more innovations than we’re usually accustomed to.

The big difference with ToyTopia and other match-3’s is that it comes packed with character collecting and city building features, as well as a charming storyline. It’s a nice touch that adds more depth than traditional, casual puzzle games, and one that allows you to indulge in a few extra activities to earn rewards such as coins and diamonds. Most importantly though, none of these innovations impede the puzzle gameplay, so you can jump straight into ToyTopia’s various levels at your leisure.

Puzzles galore

Unlike many match-3s which feature a score based system that requires you to attain a certain amount of points to progress, ToyTopia instead presents very specific goals for beating each level. In the early stages, the objectives start out relatively simple with you needing to clear a path for your character by matching the various blocks that lie in their way. After clearing a few of these stages you’ll encounter levels that feature more complex goals, such as: having to collect a certain amount of one specific block or power up, having to eradicate a number of pesky spiders, or trying to prevent runaway mice from escaping the board. Ultimately there are no points to be gained or timers to deal with; just a lot of smart matches to be played and a lot of room for uncovering new and playful gimmicks that ensure plenty of variety.

What about the power ups?

Although ToyTopia is a match-3 game, you’ll usually find yourself strategising ways to match 4 or more blocks. The reason why is because doing so will net you special power-ups - each one with a unique toy theme - which both spice up the game with their fun animations and cool effects, and stack the odds of success in your favour. Matching 5 blocks in a row for instance will create a Rainbow Ball that will take out every type of a particular block you choose on the board (provided the block is adjacent to it). Police Car power-ups meanwhile blast through rows and columns at high-speed, taking out everything that stands in their way, including any villains that aim to spoil your fun. And, for times that require more drastic measures, you can use a rocket power-up to blast whole swathes of pieces off of the board.

Better still, you can combine these power-ups together to boost their effects all the more, adding an extra dynamic to your strategy and allowing for some more intrigue to find out what new creation each combination will create.

Is it difficult?

The difficulty curve is quite gentle and most match-3 veterans will likely master its early stages. Even inexperienced puzzle solvers will find it quite manageable once they get used to managing their power-ups. And, whenever things do feel like they’re getting frustrating, the hint feature is always available to bail you out. Each level does get more challenging of course - for us, level 20 and above is where it starts getting tricky - but overall ToyTopia Match-3 is more about creating a relaxed and pleasurable vibe rather than trying to frustrate you. ToyTopia Match-3 offers plenty of intriguing innovations that make it a fun experience, and a real breath of fresh-air for the genre as a whole.

If you wish to enjoy that experience for yourself - and happen to own an Android device - then you can find ToyTopia Match-3 available to download now from the Google Play Store in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand.