With an absolute tidal wave of titles behind it already, mobile game maker Zynga released its latest title last week. Now we get to review the fantastical fantasy world of Merge Magic.
Merge Magic is yet another puzzler to release under the Gram Games banner. Following on from earlier titles like Merge Dragons!, Merged!, and Merge Town! it landed on mobile platforms on just last week. Just like other Gram Games, this experience follows the same match and merge pattern that it’s sibling titles do. Set in a fantastical world, full of cute creatures and adorable artwork, Merge Magic is a free to play distraction that aims to keep your brain ticking over while collecting a litter of adorable critters.
Opening on an isometric grid system, Merge Magic quickly introduces players to the core concepts of this title and you really won’t have to study long before you get the hang of things. Just as the genre suggests, the core component of Merge Magic is to align groups of similar objects across a grid-style map. Positioning these items in close proximity causes them to gravitate towards each other and merge, rather than self destruct. It’s a, now well established, twist on the traditional match-three mechanic. As players merge these objects they upgrade, building towards a kind of natural evolution and unlocking a range of other mechanics. The core concept of Merge Magic is just as easy to pick up and play as the control system. On iOS and Android devices, touch screen controls make use of our natural affinity for tap and swipe, allowing players to drag, drop, and shift objects across the screen.
The only boundary that does present to anybody taking on Mere Magic is the game’s cursed land. Cursed land contains a variety of objects that are locked in place, only released when an adequate number of appropriate actions have been carried out and almost always cloaking the final goal in an ashen blanket. By merging together similar fantasy objects, harvesting unusual flora, and activating some extra mechanics players can clear a map.
A Relaxing Escape
Merge Magic is more than a straight match-three game, however. It deviates from the norm by adding a range of extra mechanics for players. Bonus items are a common sight and a simple pet system provides additional map mechanics. From the moment the first egg hatches on the well kept green to the flowers these critters readily harvest, Merge Magic intertwines a variety of cute characters and builds a series of systems that keeps the action adequately interesting.
While Merge Magic might not be brian training, this casual caper still hosts the odd challenge. Dotted along a side-scrolling overworld map are several challenge levels which drop increasingly difficult time-based traps to work your way out of. Between these timed instances, a set of significantly less problematic grids lie in wait. As the gentile action ticks over and the fantastic inhabitants of Merge Magic clear up, the scoring system almost feels secondary. If nothing else, Merge Magic is a relaxing distraction.
As if the fairies and baby centaurs weren’t cute enough, players who invest enough time can collect these characters for their own home instance. Called “The Garden”, it allows players to collect companions from across Merge Magic and build a home instance around them. Many of the game’s core mechanics are utilized when constructing this home away from home, yet this one enticing addition to Merge Magic begins to reveal the game’s issues.
Despite a satisfying progression tree, tons of achievements, and a challenge timer you’re unlikely to get much built all at once. Players who drop into Merge Magic will run face-first into artificial walls so often you might begin to feel tender. Pets, who are crucial to building out facilities in your own garden instance need to rest. This rest timer can, of course, be overcome with premium gems. Build materials, currency, and extra companions for this home instance are all available for anybody with disposable income. While you can play the core game to collect a heap of in-game currency, each stage of Merge Magic is linked to an energy system called compasses. Compasses are, yes you guessed it, available for purchase if you can’t wait for them to refill.
Even if a player has enough energy to binge a few hours, there are a plethora of item drops that need extra bank space constructed. This quickly circles right back around to home instance hardships. While other collection style experiences might monetize the cute critters that dart around the game, Merge Magic really does want you to take your time. We luckily had enough extra cash to crash through these walls and play a bit further but don’t expect to grind trough this title in one sitting.
To be fair, Zynga does allow players to earn free energy by watching advertisements. Irrespective of this, Merge Magic is either tilted towards casual play or heavy monetization. Giving Merge Magic the benefit of the doubt, this is a delightfully charming title when it gets going. There are tons of levels to play though, lots of critters to collect, and plenty of solid, yet engaging, mechanics to pass the time. Merge Magic is not going to hold your interest if you’re drawn to any of the deep turn-based tactical titles we regularly see. If a stroll in the park is too much exertion then a nip into Merge Magic’s garden is in order. Merge Magic is out now for iOS and Android devices. You can find out more about this cute collection over at the official website now.