If you’re looking for a really great challenge, look no further than Jam Labs’ Shape Jam. It takes the competitive “match three” style of game and amps up the difficulty by increasing the variability of the matching mechanic. Playing a game that stretches your mind while competing against live competition from somewhere else in the world is a grand thing – even if the game itself is not exactly perfect.
The playing area is made of of blocks; each block can be one of three colours (red, blue or yellow) and can contain one of three shape sets (stars, rectangles and circles). The premise of the game is to find as many matches as you can using a tricky set of criteria: you can match three identical tiles; you can match three tiles of the same colour but with different symbols; you can match three tiles with the same symbol pattern but completely different colours. Oh, did I mention that you have 60 seconds in which to match as many tiles as you can? I didn’t? Oh. Well there you have it.
Shape Jam is a rush for a number of reasons. First of all, competing against someone else can be a fierce, multi-stage battle. First of all, the initial stage has you really competing against yourself (as you cannot see the progress of the other player). Once your turn is over, it compares your scores and you can see how you did. Secondly, the matching mechanic is very different from the standard, and takes a bit of time to get used to. When you begin, you will wonder what the hell is going on; but as you play, you will slowly become quite good at it, which creates a sense of satisfaction. Of course, the fact that you can’t see what your opponent is doing while you are playing creates a sense of distance, which takes away from the feeling of competition. I will admit that when I first started playing, this separation was fine. However, as time passed, I kind of wished that there was more of a “head to head” feel to the game. The only times that I really enjoyed myself were when I was up against some stiff competition. Of course, I didn’t know that I was playing someone good until after the first round with them was over.
I played this game on an Android device (LG G2), and I found that the graphics and sound were really polished. The developers did a great job with the presentation, and the controls are really tight. I particularly enjoyed the fact that I could play against someone in real-time, or asynchronously play them by taking my turn and updating when I logged into a local Wi-Fi network.
All in all, I think that Shape Jam is best played in short bursts. For one thing, it is fairly easy to habituate to this game if you play a lot of it at once. Secondly, for whatever reason, I found that when I took some time out between game sessions, there seemed to be better competition crawling out of the woodwork. Shape Jam is also available for iOS.