Charming Runes is an interesting mixture of a few different genres. It’s the kind of game that’s instantly addictive until about 20 minutes in when you realize there’s not actually enough going on here to hold your long-term interest. Still, you might find yourself coming back for short bursts every once in a while.
The idea is a lot like a brick breaker, albeit in an ‘endless’ capacity. Your goal is to mine your way through various rocks by throwing magical pickaxes at them. Each rock has a different number assigned to it which represents how many hits it can take. The best method is to bounce the pickaxes back and forth via the walls of the mine, a la Arkanoid. Some rocks are simply basic obstacles, while yellow rocks unlock an additional pickaxe which means you can inflict more damage. Others still add bonuses such as doubling your score or the damage you inflict.
It’s straightforward stuff, but it’s quite fun at first. Lining up a shot is just a matter of dragging your finger around and then you let it rip. The real challenge is keeping on top of everything. Each time you make a move, the screen moves downwards. If a rock hits the bottom of the screen, it’s game over. You’re given one chance to use an additional life as a form of continue, but that’s it.
So, the key is to keep an eye on what’s going on. That gives it the feeling of more of a puzzle game than a standard brick breaker. You might have as much time as you need to make a move, but you want to make sure that move counts for something. Early on, that’s far from tricky given you’re only tasked with clearing a couple of rocks at a time but soon enough, you end up with many different rocks on one line, meaning you need to be really careful and accurate with your throws. You can hit explosive rocks to clear a small area, but they’re frequently few and far between. Instead, your best route is to use a power-up or two.
Power-ups include an accuracy bonus that enables you to see exactly where your pickaxes will go, as well as an explosive potion that will take out a small area wherever it lands. You can earn more through completing simple achievements, as well as by logging in each day. There’s always the option of paying for more, but it’s far from essential.
Longevity is where things falter for Charming Runes. It’s all quite fun, but there’s very little depth here. You’re simply going to feel good about yourself when you reach a new high score, rather than when you achieve something significant. There’s no upgrade system, meaning you won’t see any substantial improvements over time. There is a vague collectibles system that promises that something cool might happen further down the line but, well, it doesn’t do anything yet.
Presumably, that means there’ll be an update or two later on, adding more depth to Charming Runes. For now though, it’s a passing distraction — and one whose gameplay bears more than a minor resemblance to Ketchapp’s chart-topping Ballz. The basic mechanics are there and do a fine job, but it lacks that ‘just one more go’ factor that games of this ilk really need.