Day 165: Murphid

Posted: 2011/04/23 in Indie Games

I’m purchasing an Xbox Live Indie Game (XBLIG) every day, seeking out the quality titles that got lost in the shuffle and are not well represented in the top 50 lists on the Xbox Dashboard. Today is day #165, and today’s game is “Murphid”.

I’ve asked myself in the past what feature(s) could be added to a match-3 puzzle game to differentiate it in a marketplace full of them. Perhaps I was asking the wrong question, as Murphid takes the opposite approach and explores what could be removed from a match-3 puzzle game to make it new: namely, the spinning and/or colour-shifting of your pieces. Surprisingly, removing that feature makes Murphid feel fresh and opens it up to shockingly fast play, making it worth a look for people who think they’ve played it all when it comes to this style of puzzle game.

First, from the developer (Decapod Studios):

“In Murphid players must use their puzzle solving skills and fast reaction to withstand attack of gorgeous marble hordes and bring those beasts under control. Deep, yet simple core game mechanics coupled with astonishing graphics, immersive sound effects and adaptive gameplay result in intense climatic moments that modern gamers have come to expect. We hope you dig it!”

In a match-3 puzzle game you match three or more objects of the same colour in an attempt to clear them from the playfield. In all of these games I know of, all the way back to some of Murphid’s most anciest ancestors (such as Sega’s Columns, Compile’s Puyo Puyo, and Nintendo’s Dr. Mario), you have had the ability to spin your pieces, shift your colours up and down your piece, or both. Murphid takes a decidedly different approach, you cannot move or colour shift your pieces in any way, you can only move them left and right and drop them.

You might think that such a decision would ruin the game, but in fact it frees it. No longer do you have to rapidly think on the fly (should I spin this piece, should I shift the colours around?), now it’s drop and run. This allows play quicker than any other match-3 game I’ve ever played, leading to impressively frantic gameplay. In some gameplay modes more rows are being added to the bottom all the time, and they do so much more quickly than I could ever imagine successfully playing in another match-3 game.

The fact that you can’t spin or colour shift your pieces doesn’t mean you have nothing in your aresenal, though. The game is always showing you what your next piece looks like, and you have the option of swapping your current piece for this next piece at any time. Periodically the game delivers you special weapons, such as a paintdropper that turns several blocks in one area the same colour, and a chainsaw that buzzsaws through five blocks for you. You’ll need these powers to deal with the speed of the game, the fact that if a block is dropped partly off the playfield it will stay there until you destroy the block its attached to, and some special pieces that require certain conditions to be met to clear.

The game has three main modes: “Arcade”, “Campaign”, and “Survival”. Arcade has the blocks already falling and you directing their fall. Campaign has 70 stages with the pieces falling onto a rising playfield, but with the blocks waiting a bit more patiently for you to decide how to act (though the rising playfield forces you to not use too much of this time), with you clearing blocks to fill a meter and to go onto the next level. Every six stages in campaign you get the opportunity to save your progress. Survival is like Campaign, but continues (potentially) forever without an endgame to seek.

Murphid was originally 240 Microsoft Points, but recently dropped to 80 MSP. This is well worth a look for people looking for something new in a match-3 game, especially for those who like a speedy challenge.

Click here to download “Murphid”, and then please come back after playing to rate the game.

Know someone else who would want to read the review, or rate the game? “Share This” and invite them to.

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