Sometimes the simplest things are the ones that bring the most joy. There aren’t many games that are simpler than Match Panic [$0.99], but that’s a big part of its charm.
Here’s how the game plays: adorable pixel sprites make a line down the screen. Identical sprites are shown on both sides of the screen, and its your job to tap the side of the screen that matches the sprite in the middle. Does it get any more straightforward than that?
But don’t jump to conclusions—Match Panic is harder than it sounds. Without lives to contend with, you’re free to make mistakes, but you have to beat the clock. It’s easy at first, but time gets tight as you reach higher and higher levels. You’ve got to be fast, and you can’t spare the seconds mistakes cost you. Now you’re probably thinking that you’re some kind of pro matcher who’d never make an error, but try saying that when there are three sprites on one side of the screen, two on the other and a clock ticking down the seconds. This is some seriously frantic matching action.
For all you meta-gamers, there’s a lot more replayability than you might think. The first challenge is to unlock all the sprites by hitting level or match milestones. They get shuffled into play and make it that much harder to keep track of where your fingers should be tapping. You’ll also want to push your scores on the Game Center leaderboards, which track high scores, bonus time, streaks and total matches. Then there are the achievements, which challenge you to play creatively, quickly and carefully.
I was pretty charmed by the trailers for Match Panic, so I’m thrilled that the game is so good. When I have a little time to kill, I put a song with a good beat on my iPod and get right to matching. I love Chaotic Box’s Silverfish [$1.99], and Match Panic confirms that the one-man dev studio is chock full of good ideas. Our forum users agree: this is a game that’s simple to pick up, but so hard to put down.