It’s tough to innovate in the crowded match three genre, and it sure takes a lot to stand out. Darkin comes to the App Store with a lot to show revolving around offering a dark adventure theme. You get to play as one of three Vampire clans, trying to survive waves of dark creatures by making matches of at least three. The game is set-up for big combos, and a quality flow with a chain based mechanic that lets you drag over matches horizontally, vertically, and diagonally. You can link together twenty matching pieces in a single go, to power your survival with various intricacies along the way.
The main game board offers you teeth, hearts, moons, and coins with each one giving you a little bit of strategy to consider. You need to match the teeth with enemies to destroy them, link hearts to replenish your health, combine moons to unlock abilities, and collect coins to upgrade your stats. The enemies attack you after every turn, so you want to consistently clear them off the board before they overrun you. At the same time, you want to build up your reserves of the other items as often as you can, as each one will play an important roll down the road. There are over 40 abilities to unlock through collecting moons, and they can help you turn the tides when in dire situations. There are also four main stats to upgrade with coins allowing you to give a boost to your attack power, heart value, HP total, and regeneration.
There’s simply a whole lot going on in Darkin to make it a thoroughly engaging experience that offers enough depth to let you experiment with different strategies. It’s the type of game that you want to restart as soon as you lose to try to do better the next time out. As you survive, there are bosses with many requiring specific tactics to get rid of them, again changing the strategy, and the things to consider with each move. One of the best parts of the game is the seamless battleintegration, so that enemies drop right on to the game board to maintain the matching flow, rather than creating separate turn based battles. It’s simply enjoyable to make big chained matches destroying multiple enemies at once, or bringing in a big collection of other items. There’s a constant challenge with the well designed difficulty curve, so that each move will make you think just a little bit.
The one problem with Darkin is that it has three game modes, but only endless is unlocked at the beginning with no clear upgrade path to unlock the other two. It would be nice if you had particular objectives to aim for to unlock the new modes, and instead you have to grind in hopes of unlocking it. You can upgrade each one of your clans with new abilities, and there’s a countdown based XP meter, but that doesn’t help with the new game modes. It can feel a bit redundant at times with the same endless set-up, but there are three difficulty modes for added challenge. The art style, and soundtrack are worth commending with a great amount of detail that fit the theme, and add to the overall engaging package.
Darkin ($2.99, Universal) is a finely crafted matching adventure that stands by itself for an engaging experience that is a should buy.