Animals vs. Zombies
Puzzle games are a natural fit for the Nintendo Switch, thanks to the system’s portability. Surprisingly, very few of them have seen release in the console’s first few months. We have Puyo Puyo Tetris and the Picross-like Piczle Lines DX, but the match-3 pickings have been slim. Enter Boost Beast, a mobile port developed by Arzest of Yoshi’s New Island and Hey! Pikmin notoriety.
Here is the Video Version so you can see it in action!
The idea is simple: swap any two colored animal tiles on the grid; match three animals of the same color on a grid to summon them to the battleground where they can defeat waves of zombies and prevent the apocalypse. Well, that escalated quickly. I admit that the story premise is so ridiculous that it’s good, but the same can’t be said for the gameplay. There isn’t much that Boost Beast does to differentiate itself from other match-3 offerings.
In fact, the few alterations it makes are for the worse. Most zombies are color-coded and can only be defeated by matching enough animals of the corresponding color. Otherwise, they plow through any other color animal until they reach your avatar, Alec the dog king, resulting in an instant Game Over. Unfortunately, since the puzzle grid is randomized, your ability to match the required colors is dependent on luck. There were times where my opening hand was so poor that I essentially lost before I even had a chance. The oddly shaped fields don’t help either. Yes, it’s novel to have a puzzle shaped liked a rabbit, but it doesn’t lend itself to effective combos. Adding frustration fuel to the fire, stage hazards like caged animals and rocks can block off any remaining strategy you had. And while it’s interesting to have bosses in a puzzle game, the color-coded ones can be unforgiving if you have a bad setup.
You might be thinking that this game is impossible, but luck can flow your way as well. Making a match of more than three animals or creating an L-shape rewards you with cross beams and bombs. These weapons more or less nuke the field, allowing more animals to fall into the grid. And if you’re lucky, the animals will just so happen to make their own matches, leading to a seemingly endless chain of extraordinary combos. It feels good to watch the points rolling in until I remember that all I did to achieve that was activate a bomb and get extremely lucky.
When the situation becomes dire, you can summon one of four wizards to give your beasts a boost. Each one activates a special ability, such as randomly placing a bomb or shuffling your animals. However, when you use one, you have to wait a while for it to recharge before you can use it again – likely a remnant of the game’s mobile roots. I usually had to play through several levels before the wizards were available again, so they weren’t necessarily dependable strategies either.
As I’ve said before, this is a mobile port of an Android game, and it shows. The game is presented in widescreen, but all action takes place within a separate vertical screen in the middle, as if emulating a phone in portrait mode. The end result is a fragmented display that shrinks the real estate, filling the rest of the screen with backgrounds and character images. I would have appreciated the option to shift to a vertical display in handheld or tabletop mode, which would have worked since the Switch has touch-screen support. The visuals are otherwise decent: the animals and even the zombies themselves are cute, if not generic. I’m pretty sure the green pig is a carbon copy of the one from Angry Birds. The constantly looping circus music, on the other hand, gets annoying fast.
The Switch version thankfully takes away the restrictions from the Android version. You don’t have to wait for a stamina timer or pay for additional content, so you can play to your heart’s content. I say that reluctantly, since the game already becomes a combination of repetitive and frustrating within the first world. With over 200 levels, only the most devoted match-3 players will likely remain invested throughout the entire campaign.
Boost Beast is an underwhelming take on the established match-3 formula. The few attempts Arzest makes to set it apart backfire, making much of the game dependent on luck. You either lack the correct colors to defeat the zombies or you score ridiculously big boosts with very little effort, making even victory unsatisfying. Unless you absolutely must have your match-3 fix on the Switch, there are better puzzle games out there.
A review copy was used for this article. This review was originally written for Darkstation.