Developer: Pappuga
Price: Free
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 4S

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

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to make something old feel totally new again. That’s the case with NeedleSack Zack and its clever combination of puzzle and strategy gaming. It has the quick simple fun of the former with the competitive depth of the latter.

NeedleSack Zack consists of turn-based puzzle battles with either human or increasingly difficult, and colorful, AI opponents. Players take turns matching three objects on the board and receiving whatever benefits they may give. For example, needles are used to attack opponents directly while skulls and hearts can be saved and used as stronger attacks and health boosts respectively. One spell even drains the stored resources of the enemy. It’s the perfect balance between easy enough to understand but complex enough to feel satisfying. The only real issue is that the random nature of a match three puzzle game can occasionally lead to devastating, undeserved combos. Harder computer opponents at times seem more aware of these impending chains but at least against other humans the randomness cuts both ways. In either case, it’s never cripplingly unfair.

Beyond the games themselves, players can upgrade their abilities with coins and stars earned from victories and explore the map looking for new opponents. However, being a freemium game, much of the content is behind a paywall. Still, the core gameplay is so strategic, enjoyable, and replayable that it doesn’t seem like a cheat. Besides, this is the kind of game players will want to pay more for just to get more of it. 

Also enjoyable, and adorable, is NeedleSack Zack’s presentation. The whole idea is that the player’s character is a voodoo doll so the style is cute creepy by way of New Orleans. The cartoon visuals are sharp and vibrant and the music is plucky, infectious, and filled with great uses of harmonica bayou tones.
 
There are plenty of places to get a quick match-three puzzle fix. However, players looking for one with a little more substance should check out NeedleSack Zack.


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