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A pirate-themed match-three puzzle game on iPhone and iPad? Sure, it's been done before, but rather than sticking to the status quo, Scurvy Scallywags throws all kinds of crazy ideas onto the pile. Combating, collecting, crafting, and combo-chaining your way across the salty seas is a collective task overflowing with quirky pillaging and plundering aplenty, and we'd expect nothing less from Monkey Island series creator Ron Gilbert and his co-conspirators at Beep Games.
Creating your custom swashbuckler and setting sail for island-hopping adventure puts you in the path of many ghastly goons to pummel, and the traditional match-three framework forms the foundation of each chaotic encounter. Only that's just the beginning. From an RPG-style experience system and unlockable special abilities to ship crafting and special boss encounters, there's a lot of depth layered on as you push ahead. The sheer volume of moving parts can be overwhelming at first, though it eventually evens out and keeps the match-three encounters from growing stale.
Moving your character around the familiar puzzle grid is a matter of carefully planning the direction of each swipe and chain, since the direction of each match influences where you move. Enemies pop up on the grid too, but you'll have to build your attack strength by clearing enough sword combos (to boost your power) before you can defeat them. This creates some interesting strategic challenges when the board isn't stocked in your favor, though there are gold coins to clear and grab and other special items you can collect to fulfill quests all the while. One-off matches earn you cumulative experience and gold that go towards upgrading your abilities and special moves, which will help keep you alive when large groups of foes are closing in.
In addition to its inventive mix of ideas at play, Scurvy Scallywags packs loads of personality and craftiness in its colorful design. Ever-changing playing fields pair with new dangers and rewards to keep you matching long after you grasp the ins-and-outs of the puzzle combat system.
The bottom line. Scurvy Scallywags erects a grand scaffolding of curious creativity on a well-worn puzzle formula, resulting in a familiar experience with lots of fun new twists.
iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad running iOS 5.0 or later
Cool expansion of familiar puzzle play. Surprising depth. Addictive combat and collection elements
Getting a handle on all of the moving parts can be unruly at first.