Legacy: Mystery Mansion
The recent boom in casual gaming has seen a number of videogame genres rise immeasurably in popularity, none more so than the “match-three” field. PopCap saw a great deal of potential in a concept as simple as switching items in a grid to create rows of three and the result was Bejeweled; one of the most popular games available on the market.
Several developers have tried to emulate their success but few have managed to create a match-three game as innovative or entertaining. DNA Interactive have tried their hand at the genre with Legacy: Mystery Mansion but are unlikely to worry the likes of PopCap. Available on iOS and Android, Legacy plays much in the same way as other genre titles but fails to offer any of the excitement present in games like Bejeweled.
Legacy is split into five levels which take place in different areas of a presumably deserted mansion. Each level is set on an 8×8 grid and the aim is similar to other match-three games: switch an item with an adjacent one and create a row of three which is subsequently removed from the board. In order to move on you must get three individual antique pieces to the bottom of the grid by matching and removing multiple rows of surrounding items before time runs out.
This objective is explained briefly in a note at the beginning of the game but beyond that there is no semblance of a plot or any instructions on exactly how to achieve your goal. There is no tutorial available to help first-time players and Legacy expects you to figure out the controls, methods, strategies and power-ups yourself.
Unlike other similar games, the objective in Legacy is not simply to get as high a score as possible in the time limit. By making the removal of the three antique pieces the focus of main game, DNA Interactive end up creating a stilted and frustrating experience. As there is no set pattern to the items surrounding the antique pieces you have to rely on pure luck to get the antiques to the bottom of the screen and move on to the next level. I spent close to an hour on the first level alone trying to switch items and get the individual pieces to the bottom of the grid but, as I soon found out, each item is randomly-generated making it impossible to work out any form of strategy.
The game does offer help to the gamer should they get stuck. There’s a hint system which highlights switchable items if no move is made after a few seconds. Each gamer is given a single-use broom to remove certain items from the board, more of which can be bought from the in-game store (though quite why you would want to spend more money on three in-game power-ups is unclear). There is a set of die available which re-shuffle the board into a random order around the antique pieces, but each use incurs a time penalty.
The graphics are unspectacular, even by handheld device standards. The items you are expected to move around consist of orange feathers, teacups, butterflies and Dick Tracy’s yellow hat. Whilst playing with coloured gems in Bejeweled was a pleasant experience, working with such non-descript items in Legacy makes each scene feel uninspired and boring to look at. The background images to each level are impressive but you will only catch a brief glimpse of them before the game grid appears to taint the scene. The in-game music goes some way to make up for the dreary scenery with an uplifting orchestral tune playing away in the background, but even the impressive score cannot make up for what is an all-round poorly-executed game.
The match-three game has been made before and made better. Whilst there’s plenty of entertainment available in Bejeweled with a wide range of power-ups and special items available to the player, there’s very little on offer at all in Legacy: Mystery Mansion. It doesn’t play well, it’s unfriendly to the first-time user and it looks downright lacklustre. It may entertain some less-accustomed gamers for an hour or so and the soundtrack is impressive but that is not enough to forgive what is a completely uninspiring and underwhelming title.