Developer: TeamLava
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2

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

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

IMG_8016TeamLava is out with a new freemium social title that riffs on an old-school PC classic. As Bubble Mania took on the balloon popper and Jewel Mania played with the gem-swapping motif, the latest, Fruit Blast Mania, pulls its core gameplay from GameHouses’s Collapse! Remember that one? It’s the oldie, even on iOS, where players explode like-colored blocks off a grid in groupings of at least two hoping of clear the field. The mechanics retain their addictive appeal here, and the new challenges and built-in FTP structure make it that much more habit-forming.

The object isn’t to clear the playing field per se – although bonuses are awarded for doing so – but rather to free little mice caught between blocks of fruit. Tapping on groupings of two or more of the same fruit removes them from the board, with more tiles yielding higher scores and, as levels progress, revealing larger areas of the downward-scrolling puzzles. The boards and objectives vary to include collecting enough of a single fruit (i.e. color) to properly juice it, releasing the little varmints from traps, and many of the challenges are turn-limited, i.e. release the rodents in less than five -or 50- moves.

IMG_8031As expected, there are a ton of power-ups for sale for different types of in-game currency, the most basic of which are turns. Players get five lightning bolts to start, one of which is required to unlock each new level, and then players have to get a minimum of two stars per puzzle to earn a new one. This allows for at least a good 30 minutes of initial playtime before hitting a soft wall. One bolt regenerates per hour thereafter.

Players earn coins rather easily and gems are awarded sparingly. Both unlock power-ups that significantly increase players’ abilities not only to complete levels, but to master the challenges that unlock after level 13. Those challenges earn players keys that reveal further mysteries. It’s tempting to top off on gems for real cash, but not necessary to enjoy and make progress in the game. Based on the learning curve for the first two worlds, it’s seems likely that at some point, however, players are going to have to pony up or develop a heap of patience.

The communal element doesn’t extend much beyond competing with Facebook friends, which is more than enough for me, but perhaps insufficient to really warrant a “social” tag. Beyond that there isn’t much to complain about. And, if previous “Mania” games from TeamLava are any indication, Fruit Blast Mania is destined to be a hit.

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