Developer: HuTerra, LLC
Price: $0.99
Version: 1.0.0
App Reviewed on: iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★☆☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

IMG_0376Let’s be honest for just a second, it is hard to start a review for an iOS “match-3” game without using a tone that would also be accompanied by a sarcastic eye roll. At this point, the oversaturation of the market is at a incomprehensibly high level. In order to survive, a newcomer has to have something unique that no one else is offering. The recently released Crafty Crates is hoping to reach fans through its interesting art design and streamlined user interactions. Is an artistic approach to the genre enough to carve out a niche, or is this another voice destined to be lost in the chaotic din of the App Store?

The problem with comparing match-three games is that they all revolve around the same conceit: lining up tiles. Crafty Crates is no exception to this rule. What the developer tried to do in order to in order to mix up the gameplay is only allow the player to move tiles (or in this case, crates) left and right. The only way to get a tile to drop to a lower level is to make a move left or right where there is no other crate to support it, thereby allowing it to plummet down to the next supported tier. While the constrained movement helps to focus the potential matches, it also feels like a terrible shackle, at least at first. With practice, the logic becomes somewhat second nature, but it takes some time to learn to look for matches laterally as well as vertically.

IMG_0373Throughout gameplay, new challenges are added into the mix such as exploding barrels and unmovable lockboxes that can only be destroyed with the aid of the previously mentioned barrels ‘o boom. While additional mechanics are well and good, it almost feels like the game waits too long to introduce these new concepts. Thanks to the steep learning curve, it will most likely take several attempts that are abruptly cut short by failure before any of these game-changers will even be evident to the player.

On the bright side, Crafty Crates’ charming art style helps to counteract the initially hard-as-nails difficulty curve. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help dull the sting of the lack of true variety. There is only one mode included in the game, with no indication that more could be coming in the pipeline as downloadable content.

One mode may be enough to keep a player occupied for a short amount of time, but when there are far more substantial titles on the platform that are free, it becomes hard to recommend an experience that is as limited as Crafty Crates. As far as stacking experiences go, it is far from being terrible, yet just as far from being exceptional.

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