Imagine my surprise, just imagine for a second. My childhood hero that I grew up with since I was little child, the mighty and sexy Ursula DeMoor immortalized…in a puzzle game. Not the grandest of entrances to be sure but it’s tugging at the nostalgia strings far more effectively than any of the other scheduled releases this month.
The game is based in the Fantasy realm called Eastwick and Down where a band of mischievous orcs have taken control of the region. I was happy to see that the map was faithful to the source material; there are the Eastwick swamps, the Talubain plains, Drebbie city all the way to the ironically named “Down” mountain range. You play as, surprise, surprise, Ursula. Instead of having the entire swath of signature spells from the show, you are quickly disempowered by an orc shaman and have to get your powers back in a series of dungeon crawls.
This was done quite tastefully and fits within the narrative of the world, all baring the fact that a mere orc shaman could not outsmart Ursula of the TV series in such a manner.
The narrative and writing are both witty and true to the personality of the snarky Ursula. The main antagonist is equally well written and hysterically ironic. That doesn’t mean that there’s nothing left to be desired, however. Her look has been translated and updated to keep up with the times. Her colorful attire of the show was supposed to clash with the snarky and dark attitude of Ursula. The creators at Simplex decided to remake her as a Goth. Piercings and tattoos don’t quite do the character justice to people who are familiar with the show. I have to give credit to Simplex’s attempt to make Ursula more relevant to a newer audience but it bears mentioning that some of the mystique is lost in translation.
The map is set up with a series of waypoints and occasionally branching paths. At the each dead end is a new spell for Ursula to recover. Once on a node, you have to battle through a series of puzzle encounters in order to progress. Eastwick and Down’s gameplay revolves around a simple match three mechanic. With each matching of symbols of three or more, an equal amount of mana is given to the player. Spells are used to do damage to enemies and once a certain amount of damage is reached, you can look to the next encounter. The puzzle mechanics are sharp and splendidly done for a mobile title. There is a delightfully visceral feel to casting the default fireball spell on a group of cursed trees of the Eatwick swamp, watching them explode in a blaze of glory. The other spells you recover are somewhat lackluster in their effects, however.
Some balancing issues did arise when I was suddenly encountered with a group of monsters that decimated my poor Ursula. Several difficulty spikes are present throughout each map and are hard to bypass without a little repetitious grinding. This is by no means a game breaker, pun intended, but it is a little nagging annoyance.
This is a solid mobile title for anyone that is a fan of match three games. It will certainly occupy you for a considerable length of time in the puzzles if not the well written and surprisingly engaging story. At a mere $4.99 price point it is well worth the purchase of any Ursula DeMoor fan or any match three fan in general. Eastwick and Down comes out on the 10th of April 2015 for iOS and Android.