Dig down deep enough and you’ll notice that most matching games target the parts of us that want things tidy, want to clear a whole color right off the board or line up all the gems into nice little rows. The game messes things up, and we go about tidying after it. Go Round (Free)toys with this instinct, forcing players to clear out only the things that truly matter.
We start with three concentric rings. Each of those rings is scattered with colored balls, and each time you match three of those balls they combine and move inward. Assuming they can, at least. The goal is to get them to the middle, but you can only do that if there’s a clear path to travel.
Were we to respond in the obvious manner, we’d clear paths to the center and then go to work methodically cleaning out each ring as we went. That would, however, be a quick way to lose.
The countdown is on from the very first move you take, and when its turns run down the outside ring disappears. Then it counts down until you lose the middle ring. If it manages to count down one more time before you meet the win conditions of the level, you simply lose.
The win conditions also conspire to keep you fighting the instinct to clear away every little thing, to set up chains that draw all the balls in to the center and leave the whole works neat and tidy. The countdown makes that difficult, often impossible. The win conditions make it pointless.
Go Round wants you to keep your eye on the prize. Sometimes that means achieving a minimum score. In that case, clearing the board from the outside in makes sense if you can pull it off—scores compound as they work their way in from the outside. Score alone is rarely the only goal, though. If you need to make a certain number of colored matches or clear out very specific balls, carefully sweeping through each ring will all but guarantee a loss.
Since Go Round switches up its win conditions every few levels, you have to stay on your toes. What worked in the last level might fail you completely in the next. You’ll need to use the same technique—tapping empty spaces to match three of a color—but your whole strategy might turn on its head. You’ll ned to approach levels creatively.
This gives the game something of a staccato flow—you can’t just trance out in its groove. That’s cool. As uncommon as mindfulness may be in matching games, it’s a pleasant feeling once you get used to it.
It’s easy enough to play for free if that’s what you’re in for. Go Round goes easy on prompting players to pay. If you fail in a round, you get an ad. No big, that’s the only time you see them. You can use powerups almost at will, and you earn a generous number of coins toward those as you play. If you want to brute-force your way through a few levels in a row, you might want to considering buying some coins. If not, you’ll probably be fine.
Really, the whole game has that mellow live-and-let-live vibe. There aren’t any leaderboards or anything to compete for. Levels don’t even carry on till the last ring disappears—instead they end the moment you hit all the win conditions, so outscoring the goal is both difficult and pointless. There’s no real need to push (or pay) to outperform. Just finish your goals and work your way a little closer to the end.
That lack of a strong hook may leave some players floundering early on. That aimlessness improves as the game starts introducing pieces with more complex rules attached. The first few levels don’t have a whole lot to hang on to, but that gets much better with time.
Go Round is an easygoing game. That’s not to say it’s easy—later levels can be mindboggling. It’s just not pushy. Turns out that’s a strange feeling—almost as strange as playing a match three that doesn’t care about tidiness. Strange is rare. Enjoy it.