On the surface, Combine, by Fafv, seems to be just another in a long line of Dr. Mario clones in the match-3 genre. Rotate and drop dual-colored pieces into a well. Join 3 or more balls of the same color, and they disappear. Nothing remarkable about it; been there, done that. But if you pass Combine over, you will be missing a unique game.
The difference is in what happens when you make matches. Instead of simply disappearing, the match will leave behind a ball of a different color. Eh? Well, take a glance at the left side of the board. You will notice a rainbow-like scale, with a small arrow pointing to one of the colored balls. This is your current level.
How, exactly, are you supposed to advance levels? This is where the combinations come in. You start out on the yellow level, meaning the only colors that can drop are green and yellow. Matching three green balls makes a yellow ball, and matching three yellow balls leaves behind an orange ball. Once you finally match three orange balls, you move up to the orange level, and now orange balls can drop along with yellow and green, and your next goal is to make a red match. Ultimately, you'll move all the way up the rainbow of colors to white.
Of course, the higher the level, the more colors you are juggling, and the harder it is to make the next set of matches. The fact that you always leave behind a ball also adds to the difficulty, since you are never clearing away a space completely. Later levels require serious strategy, and make this a truly clever little game.
Analysis: We were all pretty much ready to pass on Combine, but then we got down to actually playing through the game, and realized that the twist here really changes its dynamics. Once you get the hang of it, you should be able to breeze through the first couple of levels. But once you get about three-quarters up the scale, you'll really start having problems creating matches and keeping the well empty enough to continue.
The graphic presentation is fairly simple. Nice, vibrant colors for the balls, but nothing too special. Which, in a way, is a good thing, because nothing detracts from the unique gameplay. On the flip side, it might keep people from giving the title a spin. I'm not one for "graphics for graphics' sake," but if they draw people in, haven't they served a higher purpose? Sound is very perky and upbeat. Sort of like that person that is terminally happy, even at ungodly hours of the AM. Can get a little annoying after a while, but not bad.
Combine is a deceptively deep puzzler that deserves a second look. Once you get into the game, you will be hooked, trying to make that last couple of levels on the scale. Definitely give it a chance.