Match three plus the excitement of city building! That’s the twist Lost In Night brings to the straightforward formula. That plus hand-painted graphics, several different styles of play and the promise of a mystery that will slowly be solved as you progress through the levels. What is this mystery?
Well, according to the website’s shop (where you can also download the demo), you’ve stumbled on a fabulous midnight city, gradually revealed to you through the mist under the moon. Gradually revealed as you match sets of three tiles, of course, because that’s what wanderers through fairy woods at midnight do as they go. It’s in all the classic Brothers Grimm tales. Hansel and Gretel have to be careful not to meet a third lost child, or they form a chain and pop in a burst of colour and gold coins. You all remember that, right? Or are computer games really starting to get to my childhood memories?
Anyway – this is a lovely little match three game, with cheerful and colourful graphics. Levels are nicely varied – some have square tiles, some have hexagons – and contain the usual sorts of puzzles. You must match tiles over a certain number of blue squares to clear a level. Sometimes the squares are locked or blocked; sometimes the underlying grid is in a configuration that makes it hard to keep tiles trickling down. If you’ve played pretty much any other game of this genre, you’ll know what to expect. The music provides an appropriate whimsical accompaniment to the sparkly twangs of tiles vanishing, but I found it pretty irritating. It reminded me of the kind of semi-exciting cheap synth music they play on antique hunting shows, so I turned it off.
There are bonus points for chains and combos, sometimes you earn special weapons (hammers, wands, etc that can clear trouble areas) through mini-challenges. And at the end of each level, you earn gold (and food and tools). You’re then presented with a screen showing the aforementioned mystic woodland clearing, and then you can spend your gold on unlocking little houses.
It’s a strange gimmick to add. It gives you some vague sense of progression or achievement, but it’s not really much of a city builder in the way that, say, My Town or that grisly Farm one on Facebook are. The buildings appear according to a preset plan; each house needs to be upgraded to appear in full, arriving in timber frame chunks on the way. The art is nice, very child-friendly and neat, but there’s not much in the way of animation or interest to keep your eyes on the page. Whatever the mystery of the little village is, I’m not going to be paying money to find out.
I’ve only played the demo, which locks you out after a period of time. It’s fine, the game is fun in a briefly engaging sort of way, and if you’re a casual gamer and enjoy Match 3, I can’t say anything against this. If you’re looking for anything more meaty or challenging, look elsewhere. Even the addition of a few mini-games, like a weird snail race where you can bet your gold on a potential winner, doesn’t really make this anything more than a very competent but tame game that will wile away a few idle moments.
I feel like I owe the makers a slight apology, though, which is that my screenshot capture software let me down. I did have plenty of action packed shots of gemmed tiles exploding and magical pumpkin houses being constructed. But they all came out as pure black images for some reason. The only way to get more would be to remove the demo from my system, delete all evidence of it and then reinstall so I can play again. And I’m sorry, but it didn’t really grab my attention enough to merit doing that. That’s not to say it isn’t good, though, it’s more that match 3 isn’t quite my thing! So if you want to see more, download the demo and have a look yourself, would be my advice.