Adventure Xpress was one of a few games that I was interested in regarding last week’s batch of new iOS games. I know that Adult Swim is capable of making some very addicting games out of simple ideas, as well as bring innovation to certain gameplay concepts that you didn’t see coming. When it comes to Match 3 styled Puzzle RPG games, there isn’t much that hasn’t already been done — and I won’t say Adventure Xpress does anything groundbreaking for the genre, but it felt refreshing compared to similar games that have recently come out.
- Price: Free
- Platform: iOS Only [App Store Link]
- Genre: Puzzle RPG
- Developer: Adult Swim
Beautiful graphics, plenty of variety
If there’s one thing you can count on with any game by Adult Swim, it is wonderfully crafted cartoon Visuals. Adventure Xpress delivers on this accord; overall the game looks fantastic, and runs at an extremely smooth frame rate as well. There was choppiness at times on my iPad 3, but usually closing all other apps made it run fine — and I’m sure it runs a lot better on newer devices. One thing I really liked, was that it didn’t seem like any particular area was more polished than another. Everything from the menu screens, the “world”, and the puzzle board looked great.
One thing that I always take into consideration is the visual variety, because a lot of games have out of the park graphics, but they just recycle the same models over and over. This game has several different areas that you’ll explore, each with a different scenery in combat. You have three character options to choose from, and you’ll be able to buy new armor and weapons for them, which are fully displayed when equipped. Of course, you’ll fight some of the same enemies multiple times, but there is plenty of different ones you’ll encounter so even that is varied.
For the sake of nitpicking, there is one thing that slightly irked me about the game’s graphics. The horizontal/vertical explosions from using special runes looked a bit basic — and on top of that, the damage numbers were sometimes hard to see (particularly on vertical ones, see image 7). To me, a simple black border around the font would fix it, and maybe even look better in general. I know this is minor, but holds it back from visual perfection in my opinion.
Strategic and fun combat
At this point, I’d assume most people who are even reading a review of a mobile game, have some experience with match-3 concepts. This game has you trying to match different colored runes, each with it’s own strengths/weaknesses. For example, red (fire) runes are effective against green (nature) enemies, but weak against blue (water) enemies. Matching runes that are more effective will in turn deal more damage to your opponent, but the amount of damage is also determined by your weapon. If you match over 4 runes at once, you’ll create a special rune that can explore or wipe out lines of runes at once. Combine special runes for an even bigger reaction.
You also have three spells at your disposal, which can be switched around prior to starting a battle. Charge these spells by matching runes of the corresponding color, and then use them at the beginning of your turn. These spells all have different pros/cons, such as the water spell which does low damage but heals your character, and the fire spell which does low damage but charges quickly. The game allows you to use all of your spells at least once in the same turn (providing they are charged), as well as move a tile on the board with no penalty.
Enemies will simply attack you with a standard attack or they will charge certain runes on the board. The runes that are being charged will glow, and you have a couple of turns to break them before the ability is unleashed. Sometimes this means freezing the rune (break a near-by rune to free it), healing the enemy, caging the rune (match two other runes next to it to free it), or some other ability. Your opponent will never move the runes on your board.
One thing that I’d also like to note, is that you can move a rune even if it doesn’t create a match. This allows you to combine special runes a lot easier, but you’ll need to decide if it is worth wasting a couple of turns to do so. With all this being said, you can see there is a bit more than meets the eye with Adventure Xpress, but it eventually gets a bit stale/luck based once you’ve mastered the concepts.
Lacking the addiction factor
Even though there are 275 playable levels in the game, the pace really starts to slow down near the middle of the game — if not a little bit before. Without having more powerful skills, or spending money to unlock armor and weapons earlier, it can be very difficult to complete every level one after another. There are times you’ll need to go back and grind levels you’ve already completed in order to get more XP, coins, or whatever it may be that you need to not die in the next level.
As for the game’s Interface, I didn’t have any major issues, but rather minor nuisances. One thing that is a bit redundant, is that you have to watch your character walk to the level you want to play — which can take a while if you’re walking back to an optional loot level. It’d be nice if you could just tap the location twice to automatically jump there, or press a button.
Adventure Xpress has a 30 minute timer on respawns, and you can cap out at two of them. It isn’t too bad if you simply play levels you know you can beat, but it makes repeated attempts on the same level very scarce. This is actually a good thing in my opinion, but all the same, nobody likes to be limited in how long/when they can play the game. Still, the biggest thing comes down to whether or not you can appreciate nearly identical gameplay for as long as the campaign is. The scenery changes, new armor/weapons, and new spells are definitely something to look forward to, but not necessarily enough.
I’ve said this numerous times before about other games, but sometimes one linear game mode just isn’t enough to make your game spectacular. Something I would have really liked to have seen is a survival mode, or even a battle mode where you could play against other people online. Hopefully these things can come as updates in the future, but as it stands, the Replay Value is just OK in my opinion.
Verdict – 3.8/5 [C+]
Adventure Xpress was very well executed visually, accompanied by some unique Gameplay concepts. The campaign is lengthy, but very linear, sometimes downright grindy. A lack of additional game modes is a big setback, and a couple of UI nuisances don’t help — although the Interface is still solid on the whole. Overall it’s a good game, especially considering it is free and doesn’t really require IAPs.