Treasure Epic is 6waves’ latest Facebook game that lets you join a family of treasure hunters to break groups of matching blocks to score lots of points and get your hands on precious treasures. It’s a fairly standard block-matching game, where a single click will instantly destroy any group of two of more blocks that are both adjoining and the same color. A variety of game modes, power-ups, and special block types ensure no two levels feel exactly the same.
Treasure Epic, just like most other puzzle games with matching blocks, has an incredibly simple base mechanic. Blocks come in a variety of colors and when a group of matching blocks are next to each other, clicking on them will remove them. Blocks will then collapse to fill in any gaps that were created, falling down from above first and then shifting to the left if an entire column is removed. You can destroy groups as small as just two blocks, but you get the big points for taking out big groups and the bonus points grow exponentially with the size of the group.
This game takes major design cues from King.com’s extremely successful Candy Crush Saga and Pet Rescue Saga. A series of levels are presented as dots on a path in an overworld view. You can quickly scan over all the levels to see how many stars you earned on levels you’ve completed as well as see which upcoming levels have something special for you to unlock. When you enter a level, it will present you with two objectives. The first objective is always to reach a certain score. The second objective varies from level to level, but includes goals such as destroying a certain percentage of the blocks or collecting a certain number of treasures. Regardless of the game mode, the main strategy is a balance of clearing as much of the board as possible and setting up big groups to earn lots of points. If you fail to complete both objectives, you fail the level and lose an extra life. If you succeed, you will get 1-3 stars, depending on your score.
When your objective is to collect treasures, various goodies like rings and crowns will show up at the top of some columns. You need to break the blocks beneath them until they get all the way to the bottom of the board. You can always collect more treasure than the goal, and each treasure will add some bonus points to your final score.
There are several different variations on board types. Tall boards must be solved from the top down, as the level will not scroll until you clear out an entire row of blocks. Whenever the top row doesn’t have any blocks in it, the level will automatically scroll downwards one row. The inability to see upcoming rows makes it basically impossible to use any sort of long-term strategy. Fixed boards allow you to be more careful with your planning, but skill still takes a back seat to how lucky you were with how the board was randomized. Other stages give you a limited number of moves and ask you to collect a certain amount of treasure before you run out. On these stages, blocks will spawn infinitely in the top row until the board is filled.
As you progress through the levels, you will unlock members of the treasure-hunting family and special tools called Boosters. When you enter a level, you can choose one unlocked treasure hunter to bring along. Each one has a unique Super Item that charges up as you break blocks. Like points, big groups provide bonuses that charge up Super Items faster. Once a Super Item is charged, you can use it at any time you wish. The first one you get clears an entire column of blocks. It is possible to use the same Super Item multiple times in the same level if you can build up enough charge. Unlike Super Items, Boosters are not free to use. You get three of each Booster when it is unlocked and, after that, you must spend coins to buy more. Boosters come in packs of 3 for 3000 coins. You earn only 100 coins for each star you earn when completing levels but only the first time you get that star. In other words, you can get three Boosters for playing 10 levels perfectly. It’s a ridiculous trade-off, especially because Boosters aren’t nearly as good as Super Items. The first Booster you get is a drill that destroys a single block of your choice. Unsurprisingly, gold can be purchased in bundles for your cash.
Like King.com’s puzzle games, Treasure Epic is free-to-play but has been peppered liberally with situations that ask you to spend premium currency to continue — and that premium currency costs real money. I am all for game developers making money, but Treasure Epic’s formula just feels predatory. The difficulty ramps up so ridiculously fast that you’ll be struggling to survive as early as level 12. In the first hour of play, the game switches from a game of light strategic planning to a game that requires good luck or deep pockets. On the levels with limited turns, you can buy five extra turns in exchange for four crystals ($ 1.80 value). Failure on any level costs one of your five extra lives and you can’t start a level when you’re out of lives. You can get them back by waiting 30 minutes per life, posting on your friends’ walls to ask for their help, or paying three crystals to instantly get all your lives back. The price per crystal does go down as you buy bigger bundles of crystal, but the savings are almost negligible until you’re paying at least $ 50 in a single payment.
Not everything is inherently bad about Treasure Epic. The hand-illustrated graphics are charming and the music played with orchestral instruments is light and cheery — perfect for a casual puzzle game. I also really enjoy the variety and extra strategy that the Super Items bring to the game. That is, you do need to think about how to charge them up, when to use them, and where they should be used.
When all is said and done, I just can’t in good conscience recommend this game. It has some good stuff going for it, but I can’t help but feel that it’s the sweet, juicy bait to lull unsuspecting gamers in and get them hooked. Then there’s the bait-and-switch. Right around level 10, the difficulty amps up super fast, but you’re invested in the game already and 6waves hopes you’ll pay. What should be a brain-bending puzzle game quickly becomes a drain for you to throw your time and money at. How many times will you replay levels until the colors are finally shuffled in your favor? How much money will you hand over for just five more turns? Avoid this situation, and skip the game altogether.
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