It's funny; I remember being a wee lad with a clunky PC who just installed the Shockwave player on his computer, because the pop-up prompt told me to and shockwaves are generally cool phenomena, and I'd use it to play quaint little time-wasters. Notable among those games were the progenitors of the match-3 family, a lineage that's seen some serious sprouting the past few years. Why, I remember when all the games had you do was match 3 like-mannered objects, and that was all there was to it! None of these bonuses, or power-ups, or other shiny doodads all you kids are so used to nowadays in developers' attempts to distinguish their sample from the pack. And I mean, combo multipliers are one thing, but sorcery? You whippersnappers are a tough crowd to impress. Say hello to Jungle Magic, the newest addition to the match-3 family tree.
The objective is familiar to those acquainted with the genre; click on one piece to select, and then click on an adjacent piece to swap their respective locations. Should the swap result in an unbroken chain of three similarly colored tiles, the pieces will vanish, your score will rise, and new pieces will rain in from the top. The twist on this one comes in the form of a golden talisman, which has been splintered apart into sparkling fragments in every level. You'll have to clear out all the colorful detritus keeping a fragment from reaching the bottom of the play screen in order to collect it; once you've pocketed all of the talisman parts (within the time limit, of course), you're off to the next level, where even more matching action awaits. But that's not the whole story, of course. This isn't "Jungle Sorting", it's Jungle Magic, so it's magic you'll get.
As levels progress, you'll gain access to a host of mystical powers, each one assigned to a different color. By creating two consecutive matches of the same color, you'll trigger a spell, whose effect depends on the pieces' hue. Let's say you make two matches in a row with gray tiles, right? Gray is the color of wind, so somewhere on the board, a whistling bullet of air pressure obliterates a piece directly below a golden fragment. Doesn't sound too chaotic, but remember, once the levels start going, you're going to learn magic for just about EVERY kind of color, and before you know it, pieces will be exploding in squalls of wind and flame, and lightning bolts will scurry through your tiles with the mercy of a storm.
Watching all the spell effects go off is a blast, which is handy, since you'll need to be making clever use of your magic by an early point in the game in order to survive. Since only two consecutive matches of a single color are required to trigger a spell, though, you're never too far away from that bonus time, which can make some of the levels a little on the easy side as long as you keep an eye on those yellows. Another problem is when your magic arcs out of control (every jungle shaman's worst nightmare), and the combo chains start endlessly reproducing. Most of the time, this is okay (and rather spectacular to watch), but occasionally, the self-chaining will step on the toes of a vital match you were about to make. This isn't so frequent as to hinder the fun factor, however, and to be honest, every sorcerer knows that's what they signed up for when leashing their will to the forces of the cosmos. Comes with the territory.
At its core, though, there's a robust match-3, with nice graphics and some nifty mechanics. There's a lot of fun to be had in devising strategies where different spells play off of each other, especially once your different colors start "leveling up." (Green becomes a multi-pronged juggernaut of raw elemental destruction.) There's never been a better, more magical time to become a matcher.