Fruit Jamba is the latest match-three puzzle game from publisher 6waves. Like the rest of 6waves’ modern offerings, Fruit Jamba’s format closely follows that of King’s indomitable Saga series of puzzle games — it’s a collection of levels spread out in a linear path on a map.
It’s surprising that 6waves is still so closely following King’s formula considering they’re in the middle of a lawsuit wherein King has accused 6waves of copying two of its titles. All the same, Fruit Jamba is the whole casual game package: solid art, solid music, and solid gameplay that offers a minor twist on the traditional match-three formula; a collection of animals at the bottom of the screen throw power-ups onto the board when you make consecutive matches of their favorite fruits.
If you’re a fan of King’s games, Fruit Jamba is going to seem an awful lot like Pepper Panic Saga. Sure, it’s got a jungle theme with fruit instead of an island theme with peppers, but that’s not enough to stop them from looking and feeling suspiciously similar. Each level of Fruit Jamba tasks you with collecting a certain amount of specific fruits in a limited number of moves (e.g., 34 bananas and 34 coconuts in 25 moves). If you fail to meet your goal, you will lose one of your five lives. If you succeed, any remaining moves will turn into hungry gorillas that score you extra points by eating an entire row of fruit on the board. After that “Grand Finale”, you’ll be given a rating out of three stars based on your score. As long as you get the first star, you’ll progress to the next level on the map.
Fruit Jamba has two currencies that you can buy outright or earn as you progress through the game. Coins let you buy boosters before you start a level and cash lets you buy power-ups during a level. You can also spend cash to buy 10 extra moves after you fail a level or to refill your lives that otherwise take 25 minutes each to recover. The price of buying currencies is ridiculous. The smaller packages range from 10 cash for $ 0.99 to 110 cash for $ 9.99 (a 10% bonus!). The next package after that costs $ 49.99 and it goes all the way up to $ 199.99 (for a whopping 50% bonus!). To give you an idea of how quickly you can blow through that cash, a single use of a power-up costs 3 cash and 10 extra moves after you fail a level costs 9 — almost a full dollar’s worth.
Of course, purchasing currency isn’t at all necessary. You do get a little bit of both coins and cash as you beat levels, but even if you didn’t the levels are all entirely possible to beat without boosters or power-ups. Boosters, such as 10 extra moves, are bought with coins and activated right before starting a level. Power-ups, such as a pickaxe that destroys a single block, are bought with cash during a level and can only be used once per purchase. As you advance through the game, you’ll unlock new boosters and power-ups, along with new animal helpers, tool upgrades, fruit, and obstacles.
The animal helpers are really the key twist that make Fruit Jamba different from Pepper Panic and the rest of the match-three games on the market. Each animal has a favorite fruit (“Everybody knows sabertooth tigers love grapes!”) and will throw a unique tool onto your board when you make consecutive matches of their favorite fruit. The tiger, for instance, gives you a Boomerang that destroys the 8 blocks around it. The coconut-loving mammoth gives you a Doubler Drop that collects 4 of your target fruit, but gives you credit for 8. There are three other animals and tools that you encounter across the game’s current count of 120 levels. In the later levels, you will unlock upgrades for the tools — the Boomerang is then able to destroy 12 blocks around it. The tools really are central to your success, as they can be triggered at any time and don’t use up one of your moves. It’s really a twist that I like — instead of only going for your target fruit, sometimes it’s worth it to make a bunch of grape matches in a row, clearing up the board and adding a bunch of Boomerangs to the board in the process. The Boomerangs can then clear up the board even more and collect some of your target fruit in the process.
That’s really the key difference between Fruit Jamba and Pepper Panic. Fruit Jamba has friendly animals that help you out and Pepper Panic has a voracious cat that steals your high-level peppers. Oh, and Fruit Jamba doesn’t have fruit leveling or explosive fruit. You just make a match and collect. These changes serve to make Fruit Jamba the easier of the pair by a significant margin. I guess that’s a good thing for somebody who wants to play casually, which is probably most people who play match-three games on Facebook.
I’ll concede that Fruit Jamba has a few interesting twists on the match-three gameplay, but it’s not really enough to make it worth playing. It’s not particularly bad either — just so-so. It tries to be a streamlined match-three game, matches and consecutive matches are really all that matters, nothing special happens when you make a huge chain or match five fruit in a row. At the same time, Fruit Jamba throws in all the complications of free-to-play, including lives, boosters, and power-ups. Of course, these are the ways that 6waves hopes to make money, but they really clog up Fruit Jamba which is otherwise a sweet and simple puzzle game. I highly prefer the extra polish and strategy you’ll find in Pepper Panic Saga, but Fruit Jamba might be a good choice if you’re looking for something easier.
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Video Rating: 4 / 5