Developer: Bandai Namco Entertainment America
Genre: Puzzle / Match 3
Release Date: 9th July 2015
It takes a strong hand to deliver a match 3 game that feels unique, and harder still to compete in the vast wasteland of free to play offerings. I’ll openly admit to approaching CineMagic (originally called CineMazing during its soft launch) expecting to delete it after bumping against multiple paywalls and derivative gameplay. Instead, I’ve been dipping into it nearly daily for the last two months.
The core gameplay is a decided break from the expected, while you’re still matching coloured shapes and aiming to create combos or connections of more than three, there’s an enormously entertaining goal that involves mechanics I’ve not encountered before.
As you play, you’ll draw cards representing facets of a movie: actors, sets, roles, scenes and advertising. Each costs a set number of tokens from their own colour pool and they all possess certain strengths in different genres. You’ll want to aim for the strongest pairings in a single (or sometimes a double) genre.
Progress unlocks a larger deck, whilst coins earned can be used to upgrade existing cards. It’s a bizarre amalgamation of Bejeweled and the two-a-penny freemium card battlers; it shouldn’t work on paper, but it comes together magnificently.
Part of that success is surely down to the payment model. You can purchase the currency that unlocks new cards, apparently. The thing is, I’ve never even looked at the IAP screen. Progress is such a gentle incline that you’re never pressured into spending. With no energy system or ads, it’s a simple matter to grind a few quick levels if you struggle.
It’s not without faults, as the app is prone to crashing in most long sessions. I’ve witnessed cards be impossible to upgrade due to a supposed internet connection error and some Cinebits are blank, freezing the game when viewed. These are all hiccups that can be corrected with some care and attention and while I wouldn’t normally hold out a huge amount of hope, the app has already improved incredibly during the soft launch.
CineMagic is genuinely hilarious, and even once those laughs wear out, there’s an addictive and compelling casual adventure that never stops rewarding you for progress. I can’t fault it for the price, and I can easily forgive lost progress when the writing is so intelligent and the creativity so obvious.