You've probably already made one big, incorrect assumption about Matchblocks [$1.99 / Free], so let's get this out of the way: it's not a match-3. Yes, it does look a lot like one in its poppy, colorful way, but it's that other kind of matching, the kind where you see a color or pattern and parrot it. You know, the Simon-kind of matching.
There's a little Tetris in this bad boy, too, as you frantically try to clear the screen while more and more blocks fall from some mysterious world above. These are good, strong inspirations. Importantly, they're not Bejeweled. It's pretty great that One Minute Games (Commander Pixman [$1.99]) has made a game that I haven't played before. It's even better that it's fun.
My arm still aches from last night's marathon run. This game is not designed with RSI sufferers in mind, certainly. Sequences of squares fall from the top of the screen, and there is a row of colors at the bottom. To play, you tap the colors on the bottom in order to match the blocks that fall. When you match a full sequence, you clear it.
For me, at least, the difficulty curve quickly becomes a sheer cliff. Maybe my fingers aren't quick enough, or maybe the part of my brain that recognizes colors got lost on the way to my fingertips, but the gaping chasm between a "green-yellow-yellow" sequence and a "green-purple-yellow-red-red" sequence is a deadly one. I can pull off a few of the latter, but beyond that they just keep stacking up, tumbling into a pile that spills right off the screen,
That's sort of the point, though. Matchblocks is rather aggressive about killing off its players. Just when you think things are going well, circles will drop down. They need to be tapped once for every dot they bear. So here I am, keeping abreast of the patterns when I suddenly realize if I don't clear like, six circles at 4 or 5 taps each, I'll be dead in another spawn or two. If that doesn't get you, the game arbitrarily deciding that the blocks should be larger for a while might. Or maybe the power-up you grab because you think it will help is what will finish you off: a good half of them are intentionally deadly.
Tetris and Simon get hard, but they generally feel fair. I can't say the same of Matchblocks. I've sworn at it a few times when the screen faded to black and my score appeared. I'm pretty sure it has it out for me. Here's the thing, though: most things that killed me wouldn't have if I'd had more of the screen clear when they happened. An extra pile of blocks spawning is almost always deadly, but if you're doing well enough it's not. The only answer is to play better, tap faster, challenge yourself to see all the patterns on-screen at once. Maybe you'll even learn to combo up your score while you're at it.
Matchblocks has four game modes, but you're not going to find a significant amount of variety between them. The first is an endless mode that increases the number of colors on screen and then the speed of the spawns as you go. The second is similar, but sticks to the basic yellow and green (which have been adjusted to be more distinct in the game's first patch, but can still be somewhat difficult to tell apart). The third goes in a different direction, giving you a full screen with no spawns and a set timer to clear it. The fourth is zen mode, which proceeds without any serious difficulty spikes.
There's something entertaining about playing out the same actions learned in Simon without involving all that infuriating memorization. It's just recognize, tap, recognize, tap. Matchblocks is fast, furious, and potentially painful, a pretty good combo in a matching game. So yeah, come for the bright shiny colors—they're worth it. You'll end up staying when Matchblocks teaches you just how fast your fingers can fly.