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What do you get when you combine the "match three" mechanic of Bejeweled with the forging of Minecraft under the loose guise of a city sim? This hodgepodge of ideas comes together in Triple Town, a puzzle game/sim about combining environmental objects to build a village.
The conceit is that matching three of the same type of terrain will form a more valuable piece of land, upping the worth of your town and freeing up real estate. Match three plots of grass to create a bush; three bushes combine into a tree, three trees into a house, and so on and so forth. Occasionally, you'll have to let bears loose into your borough, which must be cornered until they have nowhere to go -- at which point they become graves (with three graves turning into a church).
Which items you can place are randomized, making Triple Town similar to Tetris in that you'll often have a good setup, but desperately need a final piece to complete the set. Though unlike Tetris, you have one spot where you can save a particularly useful item for later.
There is a store where one can buy necessary items, but herein lies Triple Town's biggest problem -- you accumulate gold very slowly unless you buy it via in-app purchases. Gold is rarely doled out in-game, and mostly allotted at the end of each rather lengthy round. This makes the high-score chase especially unfair, since your options are severely limited based on the amount of gold you have entering a game. While there is a limit to the advantages you can buy for yourself, having to grind through long play sessions to earn resources necessary to set a record feels disingenuous.
The bottom line. It's a shame that Triple Town feels unnecessarily cruel and luck-based without in-app purchases, with high-scores set primarily through one's wallet, rather than skill. Still, the moment-to-moment action of shaping your hamlet remains engaging.
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 4.1 or later
There's a lot of strategy in figuring out where to deploy each object. Presentation is clean and easy to grasp. It's fun to discover what new structures can be built.
The uneven playing field ebbs and flows with the coffers, rendering the game unfair to those who don't succumb to in-app purchases. Unlimited turns (i.e. the full game) costs $3.99, making the "free" price a misnomer.