Rovio has been having a rough last few years. After the runaway success of the Angry Birds franchise, the company has been grasping to regain its former glory of being a household name in the mobile gaming industry. After the mild reception of Angry Birds 2, Rovio cut 1/3 of its work force which saw 200 employees lose their jobs. Now, the gaming giant has released Nibblers. The match-3 game has all the makings of a viral hit smash, but is it any good? Let’s take a look.
Nibblers begins with a group of fish who leave the ocean to consume some yummy fruit. The only problem is that the beach and everywhere near it is guarded by a race of lizards who don’t want the fish around. Thus, you play as the fish as you invade lizard territory and eat up as much fruit as you possibly can.
As you progress, you’ll find new lizards, boss fights, and various other creatures and obstacles to stand in your way. Every so often, you’ll also change venues as you progress further inland to eat even more fruit. As of right now, there are 200 levels in total but Rovio has stated that more will be added as time goes.
Overall, the story is present but not necessarily deep. It serves to move the player forward and gives you an enemy to deal with but otherwise it’s the same kind of thing we saw with Angry Birds. There’s a group of animals who dislike another group of animals and you must beat up those animals. Simply replace birds and pigs with fish and lizards, respectively.
The game play is fairly similar to most match-3 style games with a slight twist. You can move pieces of fruit around to match them, then they disappear and more fall into place. The twist is that you have to match three fruits that border one of the lizards in order to cause damage. Damaging the lizards enough times causes them to go up in a poof of smoke. You win the level when all the lizards have been defeated.
As you progress, you’ll be hit with more obstacles as lizards do things like climb on blocks or move to make them harder to hit. Usually these obstacles are overcome by damaging them the same way you damage the lizards. It provides an artificial challenge to Nibblers and makes levels that much harder to beat. Thankfully, the obstacles are thrown at you at regular intervals so you can get used to one before moving on to the next.
Boss fights are handled a bit differently. They’re damaged the same way but each one has its own obstacle to make it more difficult. For instance, when you do enough damage to the first boss, he’ll start dropping blocks randomly on the game map that makes it more difficult to match three fruits. They provide a challenge that is generally unique to the levels preceding them but the obstacles are usually connected to something that you dealt with in the levels before.
You do get some powers as well. As you progress, you’ll receive power-ups unlocked at level 17 and 22 which give you a little more control over the game board. When you match more than four fruits in one combo, a random fish will pop up with a random ability that you can use. For instance, one fish destroys everything in a cross shape from its location while another takes out a line from its starting point. These help balance out the obstacles and make games easier.
Each level has a restricted number of turns you can use before the level is officially failed. This value can be found at the top left corner during any level and counts down as you perform moves. The fewer moves you use, the higher your score gets and the more stars you earn. Each level can have a maximum of three stars.
Lives, and coins, and Facebook friends, oh my!
Above the game play mechanics is a layer of additional stuff. The game features Facebook integration which includes sending friends gifts of all varieties. Nibblers also includes Google Play Games services in the form of achievements and leaderboards so you can compare scores with friends or global players. There is cloud saving as well.
Nibblers uses a life system. When you fail a level, you lose a life. Lives are regenerated by simply waiting enough time (approximately 30 minutes) or you can purchase more with coins. While we don’t necessarily enjoy time-based game limitations, we do applaud that the game went with a life system instead of an energy system. As long as you never lose, you can keep playing.
Coins are used for pretty much anything you can imagine coins being used to buy. If you fail a level, you can buy more moves to avoid losing a life. You can also buy more lives. Coins can buy power-ups as well. Coins also represent the game currency that you can buy with in-app purchases. Pricing is pretty standard with $0.99, $4.99, $9.99, $19.99, and $39.99 options. Given that you can use coins to buy power-ups, it could be argued that this does introduce pay-to-win mechanics although the game is playable without them.
Outside of that, you have an inbox to accept gifts from friends as well as an omnipresent Settings button on the bottom left corner that lets you turn notifications on or off, turn sounds and music on or off, and check your Google Play Games achievements and leaderboards.
Graphics, sound, and feel
Nibblers is played in portrait mode on your screen which makes it ideal for phones and not so ideal for tablets. The game board is placed in the middle of the screen and it doesn’t reach to the corners which makes it easy to access with thumbs or fingers. The corners are used for various game tools like Settings, your Inbox, the in-game store for buying coins, and other miscellany.
Music in the game is fairly run-of-the-mill. It’s a quirky, almost goofy soundtrack that fits the mood of the game very well but we don’t imagine it’ll win any awards for creativity. The sound effects are also pretty standard, but effective. You’ll hear fruit squishing, the lizards laughing at you, and a voice over says words when you hit combos. Nothing stands out too much although we could imagine Rovio placing the voice overs in a children’s cartoon show or an adult horror movie and they would fit perfectly in both places.
The graphics are nothing to write home about but they are effective. The entire game is bright and colorful which is indicative of almost every Rovio game. The lizards and fish have been given anthropomorphic features to give them human features like feet and hands and also serves to enhance their cuteness a little bit. Unfortunately, Rovio’s propensity for cuteness gives the game a bit of a “child’s game” look despite being suitable for all ages. We imagine that will play well with the casual gamer crowd.