Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPod touch 4
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
Let me start off with a warning. Panda Picnic is a match-3 game. Experienced and long-time iOS gamers are likely recoiling in horror, as the match-3 game is very overplayed on iOS. Of course, one cannot ignore this genre of game forever, and Panda Picnic adds an asynchronous multiplayer twist to it.
Panda Picnic comes from the Bust-a-Move mold, where the object is to match 3 or more fruits at the top of the screen that are launched from the bottom. Players get 3 shots at a time of different fruits, with the goal being to match a certain number of each fruit, the first person to do so being the winner. The game is free to play, with coins available to re-spin when a different set of fruits is desired. Players can buy more coins, and pay to disable ads.
The competitive aspect of Panda Picnic is what keeps the gameplay feeling fresh despite the commonly-used mechanic. It feels like playing a game of 8-ball billiards, where sometimes the preferred plays are the ones that won't leave the opponent with a good shot on their turn. The coins element is very well-implemented, as it is possible to earn coins in the game, so it never feels like purchasing coins is all that much of a significant advantage, and re-spinning feels like a tactical decision that can be used often, but still deployed strategically. It's a great balance. The game also uses Facebook Connect for account synchronization and backup.
The game does require a Facebook account for online play at launch, however. The developers have stated that they will add iOS 5's asynchronous multiplayer once the OS is publicly available. One of the powerups, a wild-card fruit that turns into the fruit that it first hits, often this is different from the fruit that was intended to be matched. This means that the wild card can't be used in a gap between two fruits at all, despite it hitting all 3 fruit at the same time. If the fruit had some intelligence to benefit the player the most, then it would be much better. Otherwise, very careful shooting needs to be done with this fruit.
While match-3 games are not exactly the pinnacle of innovation these days, thankfully there are still original takes on the game being made, and there are new types of asynchronous games being made too. Panda Picnic should satisfy my match-3 tastes for a long time.