There’s no shortage of Match-3 games for the iDevice. Thankfully, there’s still developers that are creative enough to throw together a Match-3 title with elements that haven’t been done to death. Headlight Software happens to be one of those development teams, showing gamers that there’s still hope for new Match-3 games. Their release, Pawn’d, mixes elements from Chess with Match-3 gameplay, and it provides quite a bit of challenge and strategy.
Pawn’d looks like your typical Match-3 game. At first, it looks like it might just be a Match-3 with a chess skin, but once you actually start playing, you notice right away that that’s not the case. You’re able to move the tiles like they move in chess. Your queen pieces can move in any direction, your rook can move left, right, up and down, bishop moves diagonally, and so on. With these movement restrictions, you’re job is to come up with matches of 3 or more of the same pieces.
Pawn’d has 4 different modes, each offering up a pretty significant difference in gameplay. Practice’d Mode has no time limit, and the goal is to come up with 15 matches for each of the pieces. 15 pawn matches, 15 knight matches, etc. You’re scored based on how many moves it took you to get all the matches, and how big your matches were.
Clock’d Mode gives you 30 seconds to make as many matches as you can, scoring you based on how big your matches are, and how many moves you can pull off in the time limit. Poison’d Mode gives you specific pieces which you need to match in a certain amount of moves. For instance, you always start off with a queen tile needing to be matched. In the corner of the tile, there’s a number, this is the number of moves you have to make a match with that piece, or else the game is over. After you match the piece, another piece will need to be matched in a certain amount of moves, with the amount of moves slowly dropping, based on how many moves it took you to match your last piece, until a piece’s counter drops down to zero. There is no time limit with Poison’d Mode, so you’re able to really think everything through.
The last mode is Pawn’d Mode. This mode is a bit more complicated, and requires quite a bit of strategy and thought to score big. You’re given 8 pawns, and once you run out of them, it’s game over. Now, you’re not able to use these pawns, they’re kept track of up in the top right corner. But you’ll loose a pawn if you make a match and it’s only a 3 tile match. The only way you will keep a pawn, is if you make a move, and it’s either a 4 or more tiled match, it causes a cascade of matches, or your move results in two 3 tile matches (like switching a rook and a knight, and having both pieces complete a 3 tile match).
Something that adds even more to the strategy of the game, is that you MUST create a match with the piece that you’re moving. You can’t move a piece, and have the piece that was swapped out of place result in a match, it won’t count. Another mechanic that adds to the strategy is that the pawns switch directions with each turn, meaning that when you begin a game, you can only move pawns up, and with your second turn, you can only move them down.
Now, most gamers know that graphics are not what makes a game great, though there are certain games that benefit from the additional work put into the environment, atmospheres, and all the graphical design, great graphics are not required to make a great game. Pawn’d’s graphics aren’t really anything to write home about, but they work. The animations are smooth, and the explosions for getting a 5 tile match look great. Games like Call of Atlantis, Xenocube, 7 Wonders, and others, have shown that very polished and expressive graphic design fits in very well with Match-3 games, but Pawn’d shows that super detailed pieces, backgrounds, and environments are in no way needed to make a great Match-3 game.
As with other Match-3 games, the replay value of Pawn’d is pretty high, and even more-so once you factor in the GameCenter support with 19 achievements and 8 leaderboards. The drive to better your score, and build on or shrink the amount of moves is definitely there, and will keep you coming back to the game again and again.
In a genre that’s been done to death in the AppStore, Pawn’d shows that there’s still room for creativity and expansion. However, how much you like the game will be pretty much directly influenced by how much you enjoy chess, and understand the game. The amount of strategy needed to score big, and compete on the leaderboards might wind up being a big turn-off for a lot of people, especially casual gamers. But if you’re looking for something new in the Match-3 genre, and are a fan of chess, Pawn’d is definitely a game that you need to check out. The assortment of Modes is great, so are the leaderboards, and general drive to better your scores and moves. Pawn’d is Universal, and Headlight Software is very supportive and active in the Touch Arcade Thread. It’s regularly priced at $0.99, but you can pick it up now for the low-low price of FREE. It’s definitely a game you should check out if you’re even slightly interested in seeing how a chess/Match-3 match-up would work out if developed properly.
**Right now, Pawn’d is on sale, and you can download it for FREE**