It's easy to get snobby when you review games for a living, and that was definitely the case with my attitude towards King's juggernaut of a free-to-play match-3 arcade game, Candy Crush Saga, which various in-laws had been nagging me on Facebook to play for a long time now. The thing is, though, someone refusing to play anything but the classics, the deep-thinkers, and the complex concepts, is just as shallow-minded as someone who refuses to play them at all. Sometimes you want X-Com: Enemy Unknown or Journey, and sometimes you just want to be dazzled by high scores and flashy effects as you swap and match candies across a bizarre landscape while it's all being narrated by the world's most unsettling announcer. And if that's the itch you've got, Candy Crush Saga, it turns out, will oblige.
At its core, Candy Crush Saga is basically Bejeweled with a bit more frills and twists. Each stage has a goal, ranging from getting a certain number of points within a limited amount of moves to clearing the board of jelly, and you tap and drag on candies to swap them around. If you make a line of three or more candies of the same colour, they'll vanish and net you points, and bigger lines and combos means more points and power-ups. As you progress, levels get more and more complicated, requiring careful thought and strategy to win. If you fail to meet a stage's requirement, well, you either pay for a power-up or some extra turns, or you lose a life. You can only have five lives at a time, and you get a new one every half hour of real time. Candy Crush Saga has a staggering 395 levels, and you can play all of them for free... provided you're patient and/or clever, since some of the restrictions and requirements for stages can be extremely demanding.
If you, like myself, are the sort of person who prefers to pay a flat fee outright for a mobile game, Candy Crush Saga's enforced wait periods and "come on, just one couldn't hurt" approach to microtransactions is going to frustrate. Especially since the level requirements often feel less designed to challenge and more to squeeze a dollar out of you, particularly when many power-ups can be bought but not kept in reserve or carried over. Despite that, however, it's hard to deny that Candy Crush Saga is actually a very fun little arcade game. Apart from an amazingly repetitive soundtrack, the game constantly keeps you on your toes by introducing new elements and strategic levels. Comparatively simple and shallow in places? Sure. But Candy Crush Saga is well-produced, addictive arcade fun, perfect to fill the moments when you want something breezy and light. And now you can all stop e-mailing me about it. You too, mom.
NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the HTC One S. Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.