App Reviewed on: iPhone SE
User Interface Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
Match-three puzzle games feel like they come out on the App Store every other second, to the point that even combining the genre with something like dungeon-crawling doesn't feel particularly special. Despite this situation, Wombo Combo Games decided to put out Tavern Guardians, which is a match-three dungeon-crawler that manages to stand out from its peers thanks to some light roguelike elements and a wide variety of characters, enemies, and items.
In Tavern Guardians, you play the role of a hero that must defend an endless series of taverns from being overrun by monsters. To do this, you duke things out on a puzzle board full of wall blocks, coins, mana potions, arrows, meat, and–of course–enemies. Given this game board, it's up to you to swipe to swap the positions of any two blocks to trigger the effects of the items you matched. It's not always as simple as matching the types of blocks you want though, as you can only damage enemies by matching arrows together or by matching any three blocks that are touching an enemy.
Tavern Guardians features multiple heroes, each with their own sets of abilities and traits, which add an additional strategic layer to the puzzling. Players can also unlock chests or visit the shop between levels to buy items that can do things like auto-regenerate health, grant damage bonuses, and more.
An odd match
Instead of a linear set of levels Tavern Guardians is more like a score chaser with roguelike elements. Every time you play the game, the order of taverns isn't set, and the items that you'll have available to you aren't always the same.
Between playthroughs, you'll also get to keep any gold that you didn't get to spend, which you can use to upgrade your heroes' strength, vitality, and armor or otherwise just save so you can afford more expensive items in subsequent runs.
More than match-three
Although a lot of this stuff sounds pretty typical for a dungeon-crawling match-three, Tavern Guardians maintains novelty over many playthroughs because of its sheer variety. With four heroes, 50 different enemy types, and over 60 items, there's a ton of new stuff to do in the game, even after putting a good number of hours into it.
If I had to lodge any complaint with the game, it's that it's a little unbalanced, with certain hero-item combinations making it really easy to steamroll really far into the game without much challenge. That said, it can be kind of fun to find these exploits on your own or challenge yourself to avoid them on playthroughs to keep things interesting.
The bottom line
Tavern Guardians has enough going on in it to make it worth checking out, even if it's the billionth match-three you've played. It's not a complete reinvention of the genre, nor is it perfect, but it does a great job of injecting fun into a pretty tired genre.