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At this point, match-3 games are like zombie games: There’d better be a damned good hook if you want me to pay attention. Fortunately, EightyEight Games’ strange hybrid 10000000 has several. A fusion of the match-3, RPG and endless runner genres, 10000000 employs a surprisingly effective combination of common mechanics to keep players coming back.
The conceit, like the game itself, is a bit odd but easily grasped. Your pixilated hero inhabits a broken-down castle. Through making runs through the dungeon to battle monsters, collect gold and supplies and earn experience, he gains the resources necessary to upgrade his castle and skills along the way to scoring 10,000,000 points, which will somehow earn him his freedom. Yeah, I’m not clear how that works either.
The dungeon runs themselves involve matching tiles on the bottom of the screen, which will keep your hero moving to the right on his run at the top. Matching swords or staves attacks monsters; matching shields increases your defense; matching backpacks nets you a chance at special items; matching keys unlocks doors and chests; and matching wood or stone earns you those resources, which are used for castle upgrades between runs. The timing element adds tension, since not matching the appropriate tiles in time bumps you back toward the left side of the screen. Hit the left edge and your run is over. But as long as you keep running right, you keep earning points. Ranking up increases your points modifier, with the ultimate goal of achieving that eight-digit score.
The game’s other RPG elements are also smoothly integrated. Tougher monsters require more hits, which makes earning those upgrades even more crucial. The castle contains a number of rooms in which you can purchase upgrades to your attack, defense, skills and luck. There’s also a potion-brewing room that mimics the idols in Bastion—activating a potion increases the difficulty but also offers an incentive such as an experience bonus. And 10000000 also borrows from the gold standard of endless runner games, Jetpack Joyride, by providing a series of objectives for your runs—e.g., unlock a door with a skeleton key item. That feature remains remarkably effective at adding much-needed variety to a repetitive core mechanic.
Not everything in 10000000 fares as well. The retro aesthetic has run its course for me; pixel art and chiptune soundtracks irritate more than ingratiate, although they can be forgiven somewhat here since your attention is mostly concentrated on simply matching tiles. But moving the tiles can be frustrating at times, since dragging rows can feel a little sticky as the interface occasionally has trouble allowing for precision movements. Not including a pause button was also a misstep, since it’s annoying to have to lose a great run when life interrupts.
Still, these are minor concerns for a game that fuses mechanics from three different genres so smoothly. EightyEight Games deserves congratulations for this creative conglomeration.