I’ve always gotten some enjoyment out of memory match-type games. They’re a simple, enjoyable way to waste a few minutes of the day. I’ve also always loved role playing games. There’s just something entertaining about seeing a character you’re playing get better, faster, and stronger, able to take on increasingly insurmountable challenges with ease. Plus, there’s the story- I’m a sucker for a decent narrative(though, to be fair, that’s not necessarily something I go into a browser game fully expecting.)
Naturally, when I saw the game “MatchHack,” which labels itself as an “open source, RPG matching game,” I jumped on the opportunity to give it a try- with mixed results.
The summary, from the developer page, is as follows:
MatchHack is based on the classic memory match game and uses RPG elements for a twist. The player’s goal is to explore the dungeon by clicking on tiles. Find matching tiles to beat the monster guarding the exit. Each match counts as a hit, each failed match counts as an attack from the monster. The game is over when the player is defeated.
That sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it? I’m sure your minds are already forming an idea of how the game works: wandering through the dungeon, you eventually come across a monster that you must fight. In order to do battle with the beast, you need to engage in a memory match game. Tougher monsters mean a tougher puzzle- more tiles, more unforgiving punishments when you fail to make a correct match.
The first half of that actually sounded pretty awesome to me when I read it. My brain positively brimmed with possibilities as to what the developer might mean. Could flipping tiles over reveal monsters for the player to fight? Would there be traps with the puzzle built in to them? Sadly, none of the above. You do battle with a monster in a 3×9 room. Then you battle the next monster in a 3×9 room. And the next. And the next. And…you get the idea.
Oh, and your character doesn’t level up or anything. As far as I can tell, the “RPG” features stem from the fact that you can equip your character with items you find. I’m not even sure if they do anything- I think armor might let you take a few more hits from a monster than usual, but the game’s not entirely clear on that. Far as I can tell, it’s mostly cosmetic.
But hey, it’s still got some redeeming features, right? Right?
Game Mechanics: 3/5
There’s nothing wrong with the mechanics of the game at first glance. It’s your standard mix and match memory game. Find two identical symbols under a tile, the tile disappears, and the monster gets smacked upside the head. Rinse and repeat until the monster’s a lifeless pool of blood, then move on to the next room to continue your heartless slaughter of the dungeon’s peaceful denizens. Occasionally, you can find a potion under a tile. This is currently the only ‘unique’ tile in the game- matching potions together will not only strike the monster, but will also restore your character to full health.
And therein lies the first problem of Matchhack.
See, you’d expect that changing the difficulty would make the puzzles harder, wouldn’t you? Easy’s your standard 3×9 room, whereas medium maybe increases to 4×10 or 5×12, and hard balloons out to a massive 6×18…or something like that. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The only difference? Potions and hit points. On easy, you get 15 hit points and find a potion in every level. On medium, you’ll receive 10 hit points and a 50% chance of finding a potion. On hard, the game decides it wants to be mean, but not quite enough to make you cry, and gives you 8 hit points and a 25% chance of finding a potion.
So basically, the difficulty mainly hinges on how lucky you are. Except on easy. Playing through the game on that difficulty, I got to level 75 without feeling the least bit challenged, and began randomly clicking on panels. Using that method, I made it to level 90 before finally dying. You see the problem here, right?
Anyway, completing a level will increase your score based on how well you did, and give you a random chance of getting an item or a coin. Items can be equipped from the inventory, and coins…don’t really do anything yet. Truthfully, items don’t really do anything either.
There’s also a problem with turning off the sound-which you WILL want to do after playing for more than five minutes(more on that momentarily). Occasionally, flipping the switch to [OFF] won’t do anything. Only way to remedy that is to restart the game. Ech.
The graphics are decent- a throwback to the 8 bit era, reminiscent of a few of the early roguelike games. I like the looks of most of the items (though the chain bikini just looks…wrong.), though the monsters often appear rather absurd or entirely cobbled together- since every encounter is one of the monster sprites clad in random equipment. I’ve also noticed a few graphical issues involving the health bar- certain items such as the round shield tend to block it out, making it somewhat difficult to tell how much health your character has left. Oh, there’s also the fact that your avatar is always looking off to the side, like he’s embarrassed about something. Maybe the fact that he’s going into battle clad in nothing but a loincloth. Or perhaps he simply cannot bear to look the monsters he’s relentlessly disemboweling in the eye. Either way, it looks strange, to say the least.
That aside, the graphics convey the perfect sense of nostalgia for a game in Matchhack’s style.
The music. The music. The music. The music. For the first five minutes, the only song in Matchhack is actually tolerable. The chiptune-styled track is perfectly matched to a classical, 8-bit dungeon crawler. It sets up the feel and background of the game quite nicely, and most definitely conveys the idea that you’re in some vast, underground dungeon, fighting hordes upon hordes of monsters in the pursuit of some goal that only our pixellated protagonist knows.
After you’ve played the game for five minutes, you’ll likely start to feel a dull pain in the back of your skull- almost as though someone’s running gently over the inside of your head with a cheese grater. Don’t worry, it’s a normal side effect of the music. See, while the song’s pretty good in small doses; once you listen to it at length, you start to realize that it’s like one of those neighbors that seems nice when you let them in to visit, but then the next thing you know your house is on fire and you can’t find your dog.
The rest of the sound in the game is honestly kind of forgettable. There’s a nice little jingle when you win a level, and an equally catchy song when you die. Other than that, the panels beep when you flip them, you hear a ding with a correct match, and a buzzing noise with an incorrect match. Pretty much what you’d expect, really.
Final Score: 3/5
I really love the basic concept behind Matchhack, and I tried really hard to love the game- honestly, I did. Unfortunately, the irritating, tinny music, lack of complexity in the gameplay and seemingly unimaginative game design was something of a deal breaker for me. The biggest issue I had with Matchhack was this: If you’re going to claim your game has “RPG” elements in it, shouldn’t the game actually have…well, RPG elements? Throwing in an avatar customization system and basically adding a “wrong moves versus correct moves” counter
Maybe I’m being a bit to harsh on Matchhack- according to the developer, it is still in the beta stages, after all. They could very easily add a number of new features and functions to the game in order to improve upon the basic formula. If the game sounds exciting to you as it is now, feel free to grab it from the Chrome Web Store today. Otherwise, best to wait for the finished product.