Match and Merge
Sometimes, all you want to play is a nice friendly addictive tapping game on your Android. Cheery, colorful and high-gloss, Arkadium Games brings us a smooth and well-animated free sliding block puzzle which they call Match and Merge, and which I prefer to think of as 'Mike and Ikes Gone Wild'. Slide colored jellies around the board — displacing tinier jellies around in the process — to match same-colored jellies into bigger ones. Match those into even bigger ones, and then into giant jellies! Objectives for each of the 150 levels vary, from making a certain number of matches, to breaking adjacent wall tiles, smashing overlayed glass squares, or matching jellies with a bunch of little virii in them to make all the virii disappear. There's a limited number of moves and it's easy to get blocked with a bunch of badly-placed tiles if you haven't planned things out just right, so there's plenty of gameplay value to this upbeat, innocent puzzler. There's a knack to sliding jellies around and combining them that feels very natural and you'll get it right away, but explaining that in words is another matter. One-square jellies combine with adjacent jellies of the same color to make either vertical or horizontal two-square jellies. Those combine to make four-square jellies, and two of those combine to make gigantic eight-square jellies... which promptly dissolve back into a bunch of one-square jellies of various colors. If any of those can combine into new two-squares, they do — even if that produces a higgledy-piggledy arrangement of badly-placed two-square jellies that prevent anything from sliding around in their midst.
In the example shown at the right, that big four-square green jelly can't slide left because the bottom of that pink two-square vertical jelly against the wall sticks out and blocks you from doing it. However, you can slide the green four-square down a row, and then you can shift it left all in the same move, no problem. With a bit of practice you'll be sliding and combining jellies like a pro, and even solving boards that require freeing square-cornered immovable jellies that you'll have to work around until you've got everything sorted. When you solve a board you'll get a jubilant animation that's as cheery as a Disney feature, and then a perky anthropomorphic... um... snack cracker? will show up and congratulate you or offer you a bit of goofy wisdom or a zany one-liner. Because gaming! Match and Merge does feature timers and in-app purchases, which don't hinder the gameplay. Some levels take plenty of retries but since the assortment of jellies is reset each time a board loads, the same board can either have a nearly-impossible layout or one that you'll be able to solve in a trice, depending. This means that you'll be able to solve even the fiercest of boards with enough retries, and Match and Merge is designed in a way that encourages players to try this or that, take risks, explore and learn in a relaxing, easy-come-easy-go environment. One part strategizing, one part luck and both parts fun, Match and Merge's unique mechanic is just the thing for when you've got five or ten minutes to spare, or plenty of time to kill. With rapid loading time and 'Hat Mode' — in which you try to out-do your previous bests in solved levels &dmash; Match and Merge is one you'll find yourself coming back to again and again. If only to ask yourself what candies even need with hats anyway. They look so content!