Developer: PlayCreek
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.00

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★★
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★★☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

To say that match-3 has been done before would be an understatement. Viewed one way, Stoneloops! of Jurassica is just another clone: it’s based off of Zuma, which in turn was based off of the age-old match-3 concept. If you’ve played Blackbeard’s Assault or Puzzloop, you’ll know exactly what to expect with Stoneloops.

img_001111 But to simply write off Stoneloops as the same old thing would be a mistake. There’s an amazing attention to detail here, and to call the graphical presentation “good” would be yet another massive understatement. The gameplay is flawlessly executed, the levels well-designed, the power-ups good without unbalancing the underlying game. If you’re trying to pick an orb-blasting match-3, this is the best of the bunch, plain and simple; all future clones will have to ape this one if they want to enjoy success.

The gameplay is straightforward and familiar. A string of multicolored stones rolls from the starting point on the map, following a winding, looping path to the end—hence the name “Stoneloops.” If you let the stones reach the end, it’s game over. To destroy them, you fire colored stones from the bottom of the screen; the stones are then inserted into the chain. When you create a string of three or more, the stones explode.

img_000522This is all fairly common gameplay, but Stoneloops adds some extras to the mix. Powerups appear periodically, and they help you defend against the onslaught of rolling rocks by changing colors, causing explosions, and unleashing other special effects. There’s also a simple achievement system, and a peculiar, separate system that rewards your progress by…giving you upgrades to your house? As you defeat the levels, you watch your house gain nifty add-ons like handrails or tiki torches. It’s kind of random, but I don’t mind it. Bonus levels are mixed in, too, and they offer a nice break from the ordinary gameplay.

Better yet, there are two game modes to Stoneloops! of Jurassica. The first, Classic, is my preferred mode. This is classic Zuma-style gameplay, where you shoot rocks from your cannon into the approaching lines. The other mode is appropriately called “Grab-n-shoot.” You aim at a rock on the field, and when you “fire,” you “grab” it and it is placed in your cannon. From their, you shoot it at a different spot in the line. Having two game modes is a nice touch, and it helps to freshen up the gameplay if you ever get bored.

Controls can make or break a game, but Stoneloops’ controls are well done. You just slide your finger across the screen—it’s all based on horizontal movement—and when you release, the rock is fired. I usually keep my fingers at the bottom of the screen. Despite the fact that the default works wonderfully, there are two other control schemes: button-based tilt-based. Weirder yet, both are incredibly hard to use…for me, anyway. I recommend sticking with the default.

img_000718I have very few complaints about Stoneloops! of Jurassica. The difficulty ramp is very gentle, so keep that in mind if it’s not to your liking. Personally, I didn’t mind too much, though I did get impatient a few times in the early levels. The high scores board isn’t very compelling, as my current game has lasted for hours with no end in sight (remember that difficulty curve?) so if I want to be on the scores list, I’ll have to intentionally die. The house add-ons seem random, and I’d almost rather earn cash-points that could be spent to pick my own upgrades; it would be more engaging. And, finally, that silly little exclamation point in the title just keeps bugging me. (Kidding! I’m not that much of a language freak…I don’t think so, anyway.)

If you’re looking for a Zuma-style match-3, this is the one to get; it blows its competition away in terms of sheer finesse. I’d recommend grabbing it now if you’re a fan of such games. Stoneloops! of Jurassica might not have the kind of depth that’ll provide you with dozens of hours of gameplay, but as far as a casual puzzler goes, this prehistoric beauty proudly sets a new standard for match-3s.

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