There's been a lot of super popular free to play games on the App Store, but the original Candy Crush Saga [Free] completely redefined the meaning of App Store success. The game was huge on Facebook, and the leap to mobile sent the popularity of Candy Crush to a level I'm not even sure the wildest dreams of anyone at King could have imagined. It's become part of pop culture to the point that the game is even referenced in unrelated TV commercials now, and it's almost rare to be out in public and not see someone playing the game.

King has been chasing the success of Candy Crush with the release of other titles. Each of these games have done well, and would be an insane, life-changing release for anyone else, but nothing has come close to Candy Crush. So, hey, why not just release another Candy Crush? That's exactly what King did.

November_12__2014_at_0330PMIt's hard to really label what Candy Crush Soda Saga [Free] even is. It's not really a sequel, as they've got no problem slapping a "2" on the end of game titles like Bubble Witch 2 Saga [Free]. It's not really a spin off, as it really isn't that much different from the original. The best way to look at it just seems to be Soda Saga is simply more Candy Crush. If you're a loud and proud card carrying member of the "I Hate Candy Crush" Club, Soda Saga probably isn't going to change that. For everyone else, Candy Crush Soda Saga is a must-have puzzle game.

Gameplay is similar to the original, with minor twists added through new level objectives. You'll start out dealing with popping soda bottles by matching them with similarly colored candies to get the level of soda to reach the top of the game board. Making matches and clearing candies above the soda causes new candies to fall from the top. Clearing candies in the soda causes new candies to float up from the bottom. Clear a few of those, and the game introduces frosting and gummy bears. In these kind of levels, you need to make matches immediately adjacent to frosting blocks in order to clear it and find where the hidden gummy bears are. From there, you'll need to make matches on top of said gummy bears to break them free. There's also a honey mode which you can probably guess by now involves matching candies in different specific places as well.

There's a couple new special candies you can get from specific matches too. Matching a two by two square of candies forms a Swedish fish, when you match that Swedish fish again with similar colored candies it'll seemingly fairly intelligently float to knock out a block which always seems to help you out with whatever your particular level objective is. Better yet, Swedish fish inherit the properties when matched with other special candies. So, for instance, combining a Swedish fish with a striped candy will cause the Swedish fish to float somewhere good then activate the stripe candy power to clear a row in whatever direction the stripes were going. Combining Swedish fish with other special candies usually results in very awesome things.

November_12__2014_at_0325PMMatching five candies to make a color bomb is difficult enough, but now matching seven candies produces a coloring candy. Somewhat similar to the color bomb, activating the coloring candy is as simple as swapping it with a nearby candy. It'll then change the color of all those kind of candies you swapped with to the color of the coloring candy. It's tricky to explain, and even trickier to pull off in game. In my experience, coloring candies are 99.9% the result of a total accidental lucky chain of matches often set off by some other special candy.

These new block types seem to significantly up the skill cap of the game, as some levels seem straight up designed to require the use of coloring candies. Like its predecessor, doing well in Soda Saga involves intensely analyzing every movement. Sort of like how when you play chess, you're not just making your move, you're also looking ahead to multiple moves in the future, every match you make in Soda Saga needs to be building towards forming special candies. Of course, just like the original, if you just want to bang your head against levels and match whatever pops out at you first, that works too.

On the subject of looking for matches, it seems like the match suggestion feature has been significantly improved from the original Candy Crush. Instead of just highlighting any match of three when the game has been idle for a bit, it'll actively suggest matches that make special candies. I don't remember Candy Crush doing this much (or ever), but it seems to happen quite often in Soda Saga. It's hard to say if this is a new thing they implemented because of criticisms that the "suggested match is always bad," or if it's all in my head.

Soda Saga is monetized in the exact same way as the original Candy Crush, and King games always feel like the "most fair" of all the ultra-popular free to play titles out there. You get five lives, and can get more either by buying them or the requisite Facebook friend pestering. Also just like the original, if you run out of moves on a particular level you can pay to get a few more. Oh, and the candy hammer is still there which allows you to knock out a specific candy without matching it... for a price.

What I love about the way King does free to play is that the way the game is monetized is totally hands off, and while the temptation of whipping out the candy hammer is always there, paying for anything actively seems to make the game less fun. There's a real feeling of risk and reward as the finite number of lives leads to placing extra importance on playing as well as you can, since failure results in waiting fifteen minutes for a life to recharge. It's odd how incredibly intense such a seemingly simple puzzle game can be when you're on a particularly challenging level, with only a few moves left, on your last life.

The life system in these games also serve as a fabulous limiting factor, as Soda Saga (much like Candy Crush) really sinks its hooks into you due to your inability to get bored with the game easily. Instead of just endlessly brute forcing a level for hours, getting frustrated, and never coming back you've got a maximum of five failures you need to either stop, pay, or pester your friends. So, you forget about the game for a while, and come back later in the day excited to try again. It's crazy how well this works. In Candy Crush proper I've been stuck on levels for an incredibly long time, but because of the way the game limits you it never feels frustrating because you're only playing in such short bursts.

Much like Candy Crush, Soda Saga is a marvel of overall refinement. The whole experience has been crafted to just be oddly pleasurable and joyous, which are two words that seem really weird to use to describe a video game. Every graphical element is vibrant and colorful. It's constantly giving you positive feedback when you're doing well, with the game continually encouraging you with "Tasty" and similar words. Even the music is amazing. Here's a game that people play on the subway with the sound muted, and King felt it was appropriate to tap the frickin' London Symphony Orchestra to do the background music. But, really, that kind of thing just goes to show the incredible amount of thought and detail that goes in to each individual part of the game. I know "highly polished" is an incredibly cliche way to describe a game, but it's hard to think of a phrase to more aptly describe Soda Saga.

As the case with other King games, once you sign in with Facebook your progress it automatically in sync everywhere. Dealing with managing game saves on iOS games is often totally annoying, particularly if you want to play on multiple devices. It's annoying they rely on Facebook instead of Game Center, but it seems like a worthy trade off to be able to load the game up quite literally anywhere, even in a web browser or on your iPhone again after deleting then eventually reinstalling the game and be right where you left off. It's totally seamless, and I wish this sort of thing was standard in all iOS games. That seems to be the dream Apple was trying to sell with iCloud support in games, but I've yet to see an iCloud implementation that works as well as King's usage of Facebook.

Like all things that are popular, it's inevitable that Candy Crush Soda Saga will have its fair share of very, very vocal detractors. It's an easy game to dismiss as "just another match three," much like the original. Hell, I even did that with Candy Crush Saga, as the initial out of the proverbial box experience isn't all that different from any other matching game. If this sounds like you, I seriously suggest giving Soda Saga a fair shake as it's an incredibly good game. Once you give it a chance to grab you, it won't let go.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarStar
  • C. Stubb

    ...for shame.

    • spsummer

      I thought this "review" was a joke, but after reading it I think he is serious. Wow

      • Emile'sGhost

        After reading your comment, I think you're the joke.

      • Tommmy

        After reading your comment, I think you're the joke.

      • Nölff

        I'll pee in everyone's coke. That's no joky joke.

      • Womble

        After reading your comment, I think I won't drink coke.

      • Kingsley Baconhausen

        I'm fit to choke a bloke until he croaks.

      • Kane

        Watch out or i'll send you up in smoke.

  • kevin8977

    How much they bribe you Eli?

    • TouchMint

      They let your comment through but not mine about "king" being "the devil"? Lame! I doubt he got bribed at all candy crush is popular and they are trying to attract readers to the site. Hes just doing his job (but king really is the devil).

  • RamazUltra

    ....... Respect is now a 0 🙁

  • diegohostettler

    I would give the original candy crush a 5/5. This one deserves not much more than a 3,5/5

    • Vivian Li

      I actually quite like it 🙂 I gave it a good 30+ levels before forming a final judgment. The soundtrack is definitely impressive. No wonder my classically trained ears picked up on it; It's the LSO!! The graphics are up there too, and the concept is a great switch-up from the original, without being so different that people have to fumble around and relearn everything.

  • melocoman

    Honestly I don't care if you give it 5 stars. I'm just irked I got a push notification for this when I have them turned off.

    • XboxOne

      Money talks, all suffer.

  • Willbie

    Wow, the hate poured on a lot faster than expected...

    I tried it for a bit and didn't really enjoy it. You're right about it being ridiculously polished though, and in that aspect I REALLY like it. Guess you could call it EYE-Candy Crush Saga.

  • bababewey

    Review by Eli "doesn't give a shit what you think" Hodapp.

    • Mess

      And why should a review, which is someone's personal opinion, be any different.

      'I really like this game and give it 5/5, but you lot won't like me for it so let's make that a 3/5'

      • bababewey

        Who said it should?

  • C. Stubb

    Banner Saga, FTL, Wayward Souls...these are other games that have received 5 star reviews here from TA. I have a...difficult time believing that Candy Crush is of the same caliber of the works listed above.

    • t0dk0n

      Seriously, besides money probably being a factor, it's ridiculous to see a shite franchise like candy crush get 5 stars in an otherwise seemingly reputable blog like touch arcade.

      • Mess

        If your implying that TA have been paid to do this review then I can't imagine that being true.

        Maybe, just maybe, Eli really likes this game. I didn't get hooked on the original like most people, but I can't knock those that do...

    • Wizard_Mike

      I personally cannot stand candy crush. My entire family plays it, even my wife, and I did give it a more than fair attempt to get me hooked, but it just wasn't for me. The more I played it, the more it aggravated me, until I deleted it somewhere around level 112 or so. I often tease my family that I have "beaten" candy crush by deleting it, hehe.

      That being said, it is definitely one of the most polished, high quality games of its kind that I have ever played, so based on its own merit and the genre it falls under, I do believe it deserves a high rating. THE FACT THAT I ACTUALLY HATE IT OR THAT THERE ARE MUCH BETTER GAMES IN OTHER GENRES HAS NO IMPACT ON HOW I WOULD RATE CANDY CRUSH. (Sorry for caps, the TA app doesn't give option for bold or italics, and I wanted to emphasize that last line). A fair review will not contain personal bias. Don't demand a reviewer to add your, his, or anyone else's personal bias to a review if you actually want fair reviews.

    • scarlz

      I wouldn't be so surprised. If Eli can give 'Smarter Than You' 5 stars, then practically anything is fair game now.

      • HelperMonkey

        Everything SHOULD be fair game.

  • e6169

    Anyone have suggestions for other iOS game review sites? The last two 5 Star games I've bought have been just average. Adding in this and I don't trust this site anymore.

  • spokentruths772

    Ehh...not gonna download it either way so whatever....why don't they make something new? Im Getting tired of match 3 type games and why wasn't bejeweled as huge on the App Store like this crap is?

    • spokentruths772

      And someone needs to change the star rating because that's ridiculous there is no way this game is even close to a 5 star.....they probably pay to get good reviews

      • Wizard_Mike

        So what score would you give to a game that is the most highly polished and overall best game of its kind, then? Imcan't stand candy crush, and I'll never bother even trying this new one, but I'm

      • Wizard_Mike

        ... I'm able to see how, within its own genre, it's clearly the beat at what it does and deserves to be rated as such. (Damn fat fingers hit the post button by accident, lol.)

      • Wizard_Mike

        best*, not beat. Sheesh, gonna stop trying to type now... >.<

      • Emile'sGhost

        You didn't even play it, so stfu about changing the rating you dipshit.

      • spokentruths772

        Your the last person who should be calling somebody a dipshit please stfu idiot

    • solinari6

      I haven't played bejeweled in a long time, but I'm guessing there just isn't as much to it as candy crush. There's no level structure, you always play on the same square grid, and only have a high score to chase. There's no "just one more level" addictive quality to it.

  • solinari6

    I like it a lot. My guess is it's five stars compared to other F2P match 3 games.

  • rich_952000

    Oh good God! The dude just gave you HIS insightful and professional thoughts on the game, he didn't force you to read it (did you even?) much less are you now obligated to play it...grow up.

    • spokentruths772

      No......

    • Mess

      At last someone talking sense.

      +1 virtual cookie.

    • JJE McManus

      Putting the pro in professional.

  • ckoerner

    If you can spend this many words talking about a match-three micro-transaciton-fueld waste of time like Candy Crush, your review for Space Age better be longer and more in-depth than this one.

  • Andrew Fretz

    Reading this entire comment section with a filter that replaces all journalistic integrity accusations with :

    "I am a crabby babby who doesn't know how to disagree civilly, here have an ad hominem"

    Makes for a much more palatable experience. It's ok though guys, we all knew the anti-f2p crowd would show up in force to this party. Hate on, haters.

  • http://adamsimmersive.com Adams Immersive

    I'm curious, just because people I know who would normally never buy consumable IAP have sunk tons of money into Candy Crush.

    But their legal practices against CandySwipe, The Banner Saga etc., leave me wanting to stay away.

  • Ubisububi

    Not my kind of game either, but Eli was pretty darn specific and detailed as to what he likes about it. Doesn't seem really fair to suggest he's not reviewing it honestly. Personally, I hate free to play, but I can't really fault him for liking something that I don't.

    • Mess

      Well said

  • tpianca

    Oh, all the hate for those who dare appeal to the masses!
    On a side note: spend a million dollars to make the soundtrack of game, then people play it on mute while watching TV. Oh, the irony!

  • basil

    My mom loves it!!!

  • http://twitter.com/Brykeign Brykeign

    Since following Touch Arcade on Twitter sometime ago, they never steered me wrong before, so I'll trust their judgment and give it a shot.

    Don't let the negativity keep ya down man, at least Brykeign appreciates what you do.

  • Jake7905

    After downloading and trying this game I have one question for Eli: what were you smoking when you played this game? And where can I get some?

  • hervin89

    Too right! I've always used touch arcade to get an insight into apps since the first time I got a apple device,and they have always been spot on. Obviously when you read a review you take into account that it's the reviewers personal opinion.

    • bilboad

      Exactly. Another helpful thing is to keep in mind that reviews aren't written by TA, they're written by individual reviewers. If you get to know the tastes of the different reviewers you can make more informed decisions based on their reviews. For instance I know from reading TA and listening to the podcasts for a the last couple of years that Eli consistently likes a lot of these f2p puzzle games, and isn't nearly as bothered by some of the F2P tactics as other people. I also know that I dislike a lot of the games he likes. So I think this review is Eli's honest opinion about this game, and it's a very useful review for anyone else who likes these sort of games. I also know that I won't bother trying the game.

  • geoelectric

    I'm glad Eli posts his legit opinion on this stuff.

    I do wonder a bit at the star scale when this is up there with FTL and such, but I'm sure it's at least a high-quality Skinner box, and I'll probably try it out.

    Would be nice to see even more hardcore games get reviewed though. I recognize the confirmation bias, and I'm sure there are a dozen counter-examples to trot out, but it has felt a little more casual-gamey in the review selection lately.

    • Shaun Musgrave

      Which games have we missed? The App Store has so many releases that sometimes things slip by, so if there's something you think is cool and you don't see a review, please let us know!

      • JJE McManus

        Been there, done that, ignored on every count.

      • Shaun Musgrave

        That's odd. I don't recall you making any suggestions to me that I've ignored. If I've done that and forgotten, I apologize. Is there anything recent we've missed that you'd like to see?

      • The_Keeper

        Drone: Shadow Strike... Great Game - fair F2P. Just letting you know 🙂

      • Shaun Musgrave

        Thanks! I'll check it out.

  • Anova

    Krusty, this game was a nightmare! Push notifications from day 1, timers of over an hour and one of players was eaten by a bear!

    *SOB* They pulled a dump truck of money up to my house, I'M NOT MADE OF STONE!

  • iValerio1990

    How you dare call that..THING a game

    • Boopero

      Have you played it?

    • Emile'sGhost

      How dare you call that an intelligent comment!

  • JCman7

    I'm enjoying it so far I think it's even better then the original. It's really a great puzzle game because it is hard to do well. So if you avoid the IAP you have to keep trying to beat the levels making it a nice challenge from your average puzzle game.

  • LarryWP

    I'm one of the haters of this series, but I did play this for a little while and for what it is, it's excellent. The design and art work are the result of hard work. I do some software writing and I can see how much work really is involved. The animations that tie in with the orchestra are an example of professional.

    I appreciate that Eli can review all game genres with an open mind. I could not. 😉

  • rabid

    For fucks sake, there goes the ta app off my ipad.

    • Boopero

      Again, have you played it?

      • TeeDubya1975

        Don't worry about him, he hates everything..,

  • Boopero

    I'm sorry...because you don't like a genre doesn't mean it isn't a good game no matter what you think of King as a company. I personally can't stand dual stick games, virtual D pads etc, but do I bash good reviews of games I personally won't play? No. There is a variety of quality of games in all genres. I personally think Candy Crush Soda Saga is a very well made game and is extremely challenging. Just because it is popular doesn't mean it is bad.

  • Singhapura

    King? No thanks.

  • tahzblade

    Nice review Eli.

    I generally dislike King and avoid their games but I mostly always agree with TA reviews so I'll give this a go.

    • tahzblade

      After playing the game I personally think this is a 3.5 to 4 star game at max.

  • nini

    Someplace, Eli is marvelling at his work, knowing giving this game 5 stars (even relative to like for like) will attract Flappy Bird levels of angry flames for daring to give this more than 1 star, such is the ire of core gamers who feel only their likes should be catered to though it's like crack to anyone else. God speed you magnificent bastard.

  • basil

    My aunt loves this game!!

  • quizoid

    This game getting five stars, from a gaming reviewer, really shows how inured to FTP shenanigans some have become.

    All of the odd gameplay mechanics that stem from free-to-play models just aren't good design.

    If this game had a timer that slowly refilled your lives and it wasn't http://FTP... If that was just a feature, would that be considered good game design? Of course it wouldn't.

    It's a solidly designed game in many ways. 3.5 or 4 stars could even be reasonable, but to give it the highest rating... It just feels like a slap in the face to all the designers who really put their all into a high quality piece of work with solid design that isn't compromised by what have been the most successful monetization schemes.

    What motivation do designers of quality games have if even respected reviewers like Touch Arcade give five stars to such poor design elements as countdown timers?

    • Veronika_s

      Thank you for this, couldn't agree more.

  • Emotive

    We must remember Limbo.

  • Von Strubel

    No matter how good the (not original) gameplay and the polish may be, not judging the extreme money grabbing tactics of King, the many, often unfair hurdles which just have one goal: "open your purse!" is making this "review" a joke. These games are the very reason FTP is by many considered a constant attempt of fraud. And as the FTP-model is also part of the gameplay and the game experience and normally would have been considered when the game is rated it is difficult not to assume that Eli was bribed by King for this 5-Star rating, sorry.

    • HelperMonkey

      Sure. One of the most successful, profitable, popular games in mobile history needs a good review by Eli Hodapp so desperately that they must bribe him. Obviously. King's very empire teeters on the brink of Eli's whim.

      • HelperMonkey

        Or to consider it another way, would a 1-star review from Eli do anything to diminish the insane popularity and profitability of another King "saga" game?..
        Bribery?. Eli matters nothing to King or their addicts.

      • Von Strubel

        its not about desperation but organizing good press for a very doubtful product. And bribery can also mean invitation to press events and so on. Huge concerns with huge pockets do that. Maybe not in your candylala-land but in real life.

      • HelperMonkey

        My candylala-land? That's awesome.
        Anyway, my question remains: If Eli wrote a brutal review that just savaged this game, tore it to shreds, and gave it half a star, do you think it would effect sales or Facebook play at all? I doubt that even a small portion of the gazillion Candy Crush players out there have any idea that TA even exists.
        You call this a very doubtful product. That's ridiculous. There has seldom been a game with such a secure guarantee of success as this one. And that's regardless of Eli's opinion either way. King knows this. Their concern about Eli's influence is almost certainly nil. Why ply him with gifts or perks or bribes when he is simply irrelevant to their audience?

      • Von Strubel

        Yeah, you know exactly what King and their public relation department thinks, the insider that you are!

      • HelperMonkey

        *gasp!*
        You've found me out!
        Seriously, though, all I'm saying is that this game will be monstrously successful and profitable no matter what Eli or TA say about it. Therefore, there's no need for bribery or your accusations.

  • DenzilofDojima

    'Tis a piece of garbage no doubt but the man is entitled to his opinion. My wife thinks Utopia is a trash TV show, that won't stop me telling everyone it's better than air.

  • EvilAbdy

    I would like to curse you for putting that HORRIBLE song like a G6 back in my head.

  • Shiro

    King employee: "Hello you each King Game. Owners of words "Candy," "Crush," "Bubble," "Witch," "Pet," "Heroes," "Farm," "Rescue," "Diamond," and "Saga." Use them in a sentence and we will sue!"

    Coca-Cola Legal: "This is Coca-Cola. You are infringing on our business by trademarking soda. We are suing you for $500 billion."

    King employee: "hold on while I transfer your call."

    *CLICK!*

  • http://twitter.com/ghookahs HUKASFILM LTD. ✩ @ghookahs

    If my girl was caught playing Candy Crush I'd slap the shit out of her and bury her under the driveway.

    • Agkelos

      And when you are caught doing any of that, you'll be summarily arrested, convicted and, in some states, put on death row. Please do take your domestic abusive self away. Your kind is not welcome here.

  • rewind

    Didn't see this until now. Great review, Eli. This made my day, as I feel that King games tend to get slammed on here. And that's unfortunate, because these games are excellent, regardless of whether you guys like IAP or not. Overall, I'm glad you recognize how great this game is, and why it (and other King games) are so successful. People on toucharcade may not agree with your review, but judging by how it's doing on the App Store, I think there's quite a few people out there who would give it 5 stars too.

  • primalxconvoy

    This is good to play while studying or working on a pc or equivalent machine, as after working for a while, you can play it as a break or reward and when you run out of lives, back to work until the next time and so on and so forth.

    However, the "frosting" levels are only really beatable by pure luck; level 28's impregnable walls of frosted cakes, caged sweets, ice floors AND one randomly placed large gummy bear is a lesson of frustration as you continually only have the option of matching three, measly sweets at the top of the screen, while occasionally, after the tiles are all reset (due to a lack of moves), chipping away at the fortified bunker of cakes until the paltry sum of your moves are wasted away.

    Not much fun.

  • Danielle Haugh

    What do I do if none of my friends play this game yet and I need three of them to OK me so I can move on? U can't disconnect from Facebook and do it that way like u can in the other candy crush saga
    .

Candy Crush Soda Saga Reviewed by Eli Hodapp on . Rating: 5