Riot Rings for iPhone and iPad
The match-three game—in which you have to link up three or more objects of the same color, shape, or what have you—has become as much of a mainstay in the App Store as it has on other platforms. As a result, game makers have to come up with their own unique spin on the match-three concept if they have any hope of standing out from the madding crowd. Cervo Media has turned to a mix of colorful critters, goofy sound effects, and ever-shifting gameplay to liven up Riot Rings, its take on a match-three mobile game. And for the most part, the formula works.
Riot Rings works on the iPhone and iPod touch, while an iPad-optimized version—Riot Rings HD—targets Apple’s tablet. Use of screen real estate aside, both versions play exactly the same: Animals at zoos are rioting, and it’s up to you to put down this civil unrest among the four-legged set. Animal riots are at least nice and orderly—the animals rotate in circles, while you fling other creatures at the picket line. Match up three or more lions, frogs, rabbits, pandas, or monkeys, and the disorderly fauna disappear in a puff of smoke. Don’t delaying in quelling the riot, however: The ring of animals grows ever smaller the longer you take to clear a stage, and if the two ends wind up touching, the animals break ranks and take out their grievances on you.
To keep things lively over the course of its 101 stages, Riot Rings throws a number of wrinkles into the mix. Sometimes, animals fly in from off the screen to join the ring, just as you’re about to clear it. On other stages, the rings oscillate and spin, making it a challenge to line up shots. You’ve also got to contend with the occasional obstacle, like an unfortunately placed boulder or a giant killer bee, to make it out of stage unscathed. Fortunately, a healthy smattering of power-ups can help you face down even the stickiest of situations.
The ever-changing array of obstacles certainly succeeds at keeping things fresh. Occasionally, Riot Rings goes a little overboard with the challenges, as the ring of animals will rotate off the screen—even the iPad’s larger screen—and I found myself waiting to fire off a shot while precious seconds of my time bonus ticked away. That said, match-three games can get pretty repetitive, and Riot Rings does a commendable job of ramping up the difficulty level as you progress through the game.
In addition to working your way through all 101 stages in a story mode, you can go back and play individual levels to improve upon your score. (One complaint here: Once you finish all 101 levels—and a dedicated player should be able to do that—Riot Rings adds a 2X multiplier to your scores, making it frightfully easy to top your previous personal best on a level.) There’s also a zen play mode in which you’re tasked with clearing a never-ending progression of rings—an option I found a bit dull to be honest.
Your enjoyment of Riot Rings and Riot Rings HD may hinge upon how you feel about the games’ cartoonish graphics. Personally, I prefer the stylized aesthetic of MumboJumbo’s Luxor series of match-three apps, but others—particularly kids—might find the look-and-feel of Riot Rings to be far more charming. (The sounds that the animals make, however, do not resemble anything heard in nature.) Riot Rings also rewards particularly skillful play with encouraging words in a surfer-dude voice—an odd choice for a zoo-themed game, maybe, but an undeniably fun element. In fact, much about Riot Rings is undeniably fun, and in the end, that’s the most important quality for a game to offer.
[Philip Michaels is Macworld.com’s editor.]