Two of the most overdone App Store genres are Match-3 puzzles and town-building sims. Both are easy for developers to churn out without adding anything new, and we’ve played plenty of both. Puzzle Craft goes far beyond typical puzzle and sim games by adding deep and enjoyable new mechanics, which reward you every time you play.
In Puzzle Craft, your goal is to build up a tiny hamlet into a prosperous kingdom through two types of manual labor: farming and mining. You’ll start by collecting taxes from your citizens, then using these taxes to pay for workers in the field. This lets you play the farming part of the game, where you have to harvest grass, wheat, wood, produce, and livestock while the seasons pass with each move.
A herd of pigs with asymmetrical nostrils.
Instead of the Bejeweled-style Match-3, where you have to swap two adjacent tiles to make a match, Puzzle Craft uses the tracing method seen in games like Azkend 2 and Dungeon Raid. This allows you to create complex strings of similar tiles, and you can match tiles diagonally to keep your chain going. As a result, the matching games move at a brisk pace, and before you know it, your farm tiles will have a layer of snow on them and it’ll be time to collect your harvest.
Farming will yield bountiful crops, which you can then combine to create useful tools like rakes and plows. These serve as power-ups, which will clear the screen of particular tiles without spending a turn. You can also bring the food you generate into the mines, which is the second half of Puzzle Craft’s matching minigames.
Thar’s coal in them hills!
In the mines, you’ll have a certain number of moves based on the amount of food you bring with you. You’ll clear away dirt, rock, and iron, eventually creating valuable new tiles like gold and diamonds if you make enough matches. This is similar to the tiered mechanic that hooked us in Triple Town. Both the fields and the mines have their own particular challenges. For example, in the field you may find your carrots and apples nibbled on by mice, and in the mines, you have to avoid letting too much gas accumulate, which causes a cave-in.
If Puzzle Craft was just about farming and mining, that might be enough, but the game goes even deeper with downright addictive town-building aspects. With enough food and materials, you can hire workers or construct buildings that cut down on the amount of toiling you have to do in the fields and mines. You can hire a swineherd, which will let you gather pigs at a faster rate, or construct a lookout tower so that you can kill wolves before they attack your livestock. Every time you play the game, you’ll move a step closer to a more efficient society.
All of this is accomplished without you having to fork over any extra money. Puzzle Craft only costs a dollar, and it’s well worth it for the amount of immediate gameplay you’ll have access to. We never felt that we had to wait for more taxes or free resources to appear in town, even though waiting or paying extra are options. In fact, we played Puzzle Craft for hours on end, something most freemium town-building games won’t let you do.
Puzzle Craft is one of the deepest puzzle games we’ve played on iOS, and it’s all because of the remarkable amount of freedom you’re given in how you develop your town. Later in the game, as more valuable tiles start to appear, you’ll have a greater incentive to play strategically and think carefully about which moves to make. We were utterly charmed by Puzzle Craft, and we think you will be too.