By all accounts, Switchcraft: Magical Match 3 is a game I shouldn’t like...but I do. I’m not really its target audience being an (ahem...) older male, and typically, I’m not big on puzzle games either. But here I am swiping away like a mad fool.
In this experience, players are introduced to Bailey, a student at the Pendle Hill Witch Academy who is tasked with finding her missing and possibly abducted friend. You play match-three puzzle games to earn gems, which are spent to unlock new chapters of the story. In these puzzles, goals include clearing enough items to free butterflies and amassing in-game currency.
As Bailey chats up other characters and uncovers clues, you can choose actions that will open up limited branching paths in the story. You’ll also perform tasks like tracing rune shapes to cast spells, which can be oddly difficult as the game is quite persnickety about staying within the lines. These tracing segments can be skipped though if need be.
Both the mystery storyline and matching game aspects of this title are well-executed. In Switchcraft, you’ll bop back and forth between puzzle portions and dramatic scenes where Bailey gathers clues and investigates who may have been involved in her friend's disappearance. You’ll need to plow through the matching games to earn Magicka crystals, which are required to view the straight-out-of-Riverdale narrative scenes. You can either play a game to earn a crystal, and spend it right away on a scene, or complete several games in a row, bank the crystals, and then watch scenes back-to-back.
The match-three puzzles strike a good balance between being challenging but not overly complex. The way Switchcraft introduced new ways to combine items on the board to create bombs and other elements—along with adding new goals, like getting an item to sink to the bottom while working around stationary objects—kept the process of zipping through the levels consistently interesting. Although I wasn’t directly told what the currency I earned was for, most other aspects of the game were easy to navigate. I was able to click on a magic mirror (which acts as a sort of status screen) at any point to check my progress in the story. When I got stuck during the puzzle parts, potential combinations became obvious, as certain gems wiggled as a hint. Note that this “help” can be turned off at the outset if you are the hardcore match-three type.
While the story segments are text-heavy, there are interactive elements sprinkled in here and there, like choosing actions that affect the plot. Players will also occasionally be asked to swipe on the screen to rub on a crystal ball or uncover something that's hidden. Some of the ways magic is used in Switchcraft feel forced, such as one character proffering that these matching games are a form of meditation that concentrates the witch’s power. While I personally have no issues with topics of this ilk, the emphasis on witchcraft, magic, and a girl’s abduction may make some players uncomfortable. Notably, though, Switchcraft also presents several positive portrayals, particularly in its handling of serious issues like mental health, depression, social stress, and general anxiety.
Switchcraft’s graphics are stunning. All the characters and scenes have a hand-drawn, painterly aesthetic to them, and the puzzles are nicely rendered in 3D with lovely flow and special effect flourishes. The musical score sounds like it was ripped directly from a Harry Potter film which doesn’t bother me at all, but I’m sure the people at Warner Brothers would have some rather firm, litigious feelings about that.
While the time I spent in the hallowed halls of Pendle Hill was too short—the story can be completed in two to three hours tops—it’s still an engaging little title that surprised me in several ways. The consistently challenging puzzles, the decision-making and branching paths, and the serious, thoughtfully addressed subject matter help make Switchcraft: Magical Match 3 a cut above most of the other games in its genre.
SCORE: 4 STARS OUT OF 5
PLAY IF YOU LIKE:
• Chuzzle. Give Switchcraft: Magical Match 3 a shot if Popcap’s super-cute take on the match-three genre does it for you. • Columns. Switchcraft: Magical Match 3 isn’t a 16-bit classic (that was actually my introduction to the match-three genre), but it certainly does scratch that puzzler’s itch. 💬 Have you played Switchcraft: Magical Match 3? Let us know what you think of it in the comments! Even if you haven't played it, leave a comment sharing your thoughts on your favorite match-three puzzle titles!
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