With the NRA blaming video games for inspiring a recent surge of mass shootings (yes blame anything, but how easy it is to procure firearms) you’d think that digital entertainment is dominated by violent titles. Yes out of touch game critics, let us just disregard the fact that most games carry an age rating of seven or under because it disproves your point. Granted, Call of Duty sells gangbusters, but so do a number of sport, education, racing and puzzle games. In fact nothing beats a good puzzler. Just looking at the sale figures of the Professor Layton series or how Gameboy owners became enamored with Tetris should illustrate my point.
Another puzzle game that is all the rage these days is Bejeweled. Like is often the case, when something gets popular, you can bet your bottom dollar that developers will emulate it to cash in on the genre’s success. One example of a Bejeweled clone is Witch Wars, a free puzzler by Com2us available on Apple and Android mobile devices. The twist on the Bejeweled format is that instead of playing to get the best score possible, Witch Wars uses the popular Bejeweled mechanics to pit players in competitive matches, against either AI or fellow human opponents via online matchmaking.
If you have played the aforementioned Bejeweled, or one of its pretenders, you should have no trouble diving into Witch Wars. When a match kicks off you are presented with a 6×6 grid filled with various items. The object of the game is to form lines of three or more items, of the same type, by swapping the position of two connecting items. Doing so will make the line disappear causing any objects stacked above them to cascade down, with empty grids getting occupied by a new set of randomly generated items. Okay the mechanics aren’t easy to describe, but trust me it isn’t hard to understand once you start playing. Witch Wars is one of those games that is easy to learn although hard to master. If all else fails just hit the concise in-game help section, which does a good job of describing the rules with the aid of some illustrations.
To win a match you simply have to reduce your rival’s health bar to zero. Triggering a chain of swords allows you to directly damage your opponent and it is also possible to cast offensive spells by arranging rows of spell books. Unlike the swords, that attack instantly, the magic system can be activated when you desire. Every time spell books are removed from the grid your mana bar fills up. Depending on how much mana you have saved up you can cast one of three spells. You may perhaps opt to irritate foes with a series of weak spells, or horde up your power to unleash one huge devastating attack.
Aside from swords and spell books there are three other items to activate. These are not offensive, but offer benefits all the same. The first are magic potions that can be consumed to recover lost health. There are also handcuffs that temporarily freeze icons on the opponent’s field, preventing them from being swapped around for a few seconds. The handcuffs should not be confused with the furry variety that can be spotted in erotic stores. Lastly there are coins that get added to your bank account and can be spent at the main menu to purchase upgrades and other unlockables.
In case you are wondering, Witch Wars gets its name from its cast of characters. There are seven playable witches to choose from, although when you first start the game only the purple haired Athena is available to use. To acquire the services of the other gals you will have to spend the coins earned during matches. What differentiates each witch is the unique range of spells they can cast. Silpheed, who dresses up like a leprechaun, for example can poison opponents whilst the vampire-esque Morrigan has access to a power drain that sucks up health and uses it to replenish her own life bar at the same time. Aside from unlocking characters the coins can also be used to level up their abilities, so expect to play the game a lot to beef up how much damage your swords deal, the amount of health potions restore and so on.
There’s not a lot else to say about Witch Wars as it is one of those simple yet fun games. Maybe I’m enjoying it more than the average player as I never got into the Bejeweled craze and am only now discovering how addictive it is. That said, I think the game is worthy of four stars. It doesn’t have any noticeable faults and is the type of game that can be enjoyed in quick bursts or for hours at a time. The gameplay is ace, the cartoony visuals are a colorful treat and the upbeat music is catchy. I had a good time with the multiplayer mode and never got frustrated, even when I got my butt kicked by more experienced players. For a game I randomly stumbled upon, whilst browsing the apps store, I am impressed that it only takes a few seconds to find an opponent to play against, no matter what time of the day I decide to log in.
I highly recommend Witch Wars to anyone who enjoys puzzlers. The gameplay is accessible to players of all ages and best of all it can be downloaded for free. In your face NRA. Who says you needs to blow away people in a game to have fun?