You can watch me play some of the game here!

In this latest installment from Frogdice, they take a tried-and-true puzzle concept and add to it by throwing in some magic and incorporating city management, which makes for a unique experience.

Building on the Bejeweled match-three (or more) system, your rune combinations send out a magical onslaught against invaders that slowly walk towards your castle walls as they try to destroy your defenses, thus ending the stage. Making a vertical match sends out a wave that attacks a spread of three lanes, whereas a horizontal match sends out a row of attacks that hits multiple targets in the same lane. Complete a series of waves of monsters, and you advance to the next stage until you reach a boss fight.

The boards that hold your runes come in a variety of shapes and sizes, each with its own challenges.

The boards that hold your runes come in a variety of shapes and sizes, each with its own challenges.

Not only is the game a puzzle game—it has some elements of city management as well. Between each stage, or battle, you are brought back to your town, which requires some administrative attention. While you’re off fighting, the citizenry either get themselves into trouble or quibble over disputes of various kinds and need your help in deciding what to do. Depending on the nature of your decisions over time, you may receive bonuses in the playfield.

The proud town of Mikoville.

The proud town of Mikoville.

The city also includes such areas as a farm, lumber mill, granary, and others to gather resources. You use these resources to build or research items that aid you while defending your towers such as explosives, weapons, and offensive and defensive magic. These items are key for the more difficult stages where there is wave after wave of attacking mobs, and there would be no way you could stop the sheer amount of monsters by using the runes of the puzzle alone. Using your spells to their maximum efficiency and saving them for just the right moment is fun and rewarding when you take out a number of foes in one blast.

While ReignMaker is a fun game, it isn’t without a few flaws. One of the issues I had was that when starting the game, you’re dropped into your mostly vacant city and told to build a few things. At this point you don’t truly understand why and say, “Okay, I guess I’ll build a farm. That sounds like a good thing. Lumber mill? Sure! I have money!” While there were some pop-ups describing some of the concepts to me, I didn’t feel like I actually understood the game without some trial and error on my part after playing a few rounds. That in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and once I did get it, it was an easy concept; however, I felt as though I fell into it and didn’t actually learn it.

I rule!

I rule!

Some additional guidance on the benefits of using items would have been beneficial as well. I almost stopped playing the game out of frustration somewhere after the first boss because stages were getting too difficult. After a series of defeats, I turned off the game, only coming back hours later after telling myself, “There must be something I’m missing or forgetting.” Sure enough, I was right. With a bit more experimentation, I discovered that the frustration I felt was related to the fact that there were a number of situations in which there was no way I could make a match in the lane that a monster was using, and no amount of clearing runes was helping me. It turns out that I could craft a dagger that allowed me, as the player, to attack a particular monster. Later on, I figured out that some magic allows me to destroy a single rune which helps against tricky, out-of-the way monsters, and other magic helps me to restore the hit points of my castle.

These flaws, though, are minor. ReignMaker is a genuinely fun experience you shouldn’t miss if you are a fan of the genre. Frogdice has proven once again that they know how to make a well-crafted puzzle game.

ReignMakerlogoReignMaker was developed by Frogdice Games.

IGTlogo-01$15 is all it costs to have your own kingdom these days. It’s a pretty good deal for a game to play on a reigny day. OH COME ON! That’s comedy gold! Hey, don’t walk away. Come back!


I’m not certain if it’s a sign that I’m getting older, but there are plenty of games now where I can only play one stage or level and then need a break. It happened in Hotline Miami, a little bit in Rogue Legacy, and now again in Neurokult. I don’t feel it’s a bad thing, though—just something I don’t think I ever experienced growing up, and it feels strange. The intensity wears me out!

Neurokult is a cyberpunked-themed, fast action puzzler for iOS. Balls of three different colors stream across the screen and you must tap them to send them away before they reach the other side of the screen. In order to remove a ball of a certain color, you must tap a “selector” of sorts on the side of the screen that matches the color of the ball you want to remove. Match the color, press the ball, the ball goes away. To keep this from being too simple, the game is very fast-paced and there are bombs that roll across the screen which will cause a game over if you tap one.

I should note that I played this on my iPhone 4S and found that there were a handful of times that I fat-fingered things and hit a bomb. I don’t know this if this is much of an issue on the iPhone 5 (and later) or iPad screens.

You receive bonuses for connecting chains of matching colors. Along with getting more points, completing chains builds up your life meter, something that is there to keep you alive when you miss a ball before it reaches the opposite side of the screen.

In its current form, this game is difficult. By the end of the very first stage you’re already experiencing the above-mentioned intensity as a great number of objects fly across the screen. The feeling was quite daunting at first, and I took a few days’ break from the game after finishing some stages. While discussing some things with the developers, they stated that they are aware of this and are already in the process of creating an easy mode to help players out and keep them coming back. Until that day comes, I’ll give you the same advice that they gave to me: “Stick with it.” It is rewarding, but damn, is it hard.

neuro02The game will change up some things from time to time to catch you off guard and make you think. For example in one stage, the ball that flies across the screen will change color just before you press it, making you go back to the color selector to select a new color to be able to remove it. It gets a bit hectic, but it’s nothing you can’t handle. The above advice about sticking with it worked for me until I reached Stage 9, Kinesthesia. It causes me to have an episode of rageful fury (unlike my normal, happy fury), and ultimately it’s where I had to quit the game for the time being. The change in this level is jarring. Stage 9 is where the colors in the color selector move around. Up until this point in the game, the colors in the color selector stay in the same spot. You come to rely upon on the sense of their location without needing to look where you press (not unlike learning a keyboard). You begin this stage and press where blue had been for eight stages, only to find out that it moved to where red had been the whole time except you didn’t notice because you didn’t think to look. It continues to change at a fairly fast pace, causing you to miss the ball you were going after and letting it fly off the screen, taking away your hit points. By this point in the game, the action is so crazy and fast that it’s a very quick death as you flail about trying to match things up.

Every few stages there are some boss fights. From what I’ve seen so far, these stages boil down to the boss (a larger sprite) bouncing around the screen as you try to clear the playing field. If you touch the boss more than a few times, you lose. The boss fights can be tricky as near the end of their respective stages, they try very hard to get in your way, making for some very close calls where you have to choose between waiting for the boss to move or taking the hit to your life. Once you finish the boss fight, you get a chance to slice and dice it like crazy by sliding your finger across the screen until it dies. It’s a nice little way to relieve the stress of it getting in the way moments before. Seizure warning: The game makes use of bright, flashing white effects against a black background at this point.

Would I recommend this game? Yes. I would. Play it now and muck around with it, and if you get stuck, keep it on your device until you see the update come down that introduces the easier mode. It can be a frustrating experience here and there for now, but it is a fun game.


Neurokult was developed by Woodland-Barbarians.

IGTlogo-01Relive your cyberpunk days in the 90s of watching Hackers and Johnny Mnemonic for only $2.

Dungeon of Elements

Dungeon of Elements came across my desk early last week and I thought to myself, “A puzzle game? All right. I’ll play this real quick and have a review out by tomorrow.” Yeah… nope! That wasn’t going to happen. There is much more depth than a few short play-throughs can give you.

This looks familiar and that’s totally alright with me.

Main gameplay is heavily inspired by Dr. Mario. Drop multi-colored pills onto baddies, line things up, baddies are dead. The formula is very familiar and one that most puzzle game fans will be able to jump into right away. I think the game even goes one step further and improves on Dr. Mario a bit as you don’t need to line up pills in a straight line; just connect three like-colored pills in some sort of linked pattern and you’ll kill the baddies. Additionally, not only do you get to kill monsters, you also collect items that you can either equip or use in the game’s crafting system.

As you progress through the story (yes, a story!), you will encounter boss fights to mix things up a bit. For example, one of the first bosses was a giant rat whose rat army would quickly refill the stage as I cleared it out. Another boss was an orc king with an army of orcs that would slowly march toward the top of the screen. Occasionally he’d summon another orc exactly where my pill was falling, causing mayhem as the pill did not go where I had planned. This definitely added some excitement and was a nice change from the level grind. It also gave me a reason to invent more swear words and derogatory slang against orcs which I’m always excited about.

I have a water rod to dowse my fire armor if I get too hot.

I have a water rod to dowse my fire armor if I get too hot.

I mentioned earlier that you can pick up weaponry and armor; these are used to cast special attacks onto the playing field or slow down the fall of the pills. For example, the sweet bo staff skill I have at the moment is an AOE effect that blows up anything in a small area. This is particularly useful when monsters are effectively hiding behind objects on the playfield. Boots temporarily slow the fall of the pills to give you a moment to think about where you want to place them. Admittedly, one could also pause the game because it doesn’t black out the screen when paused, but that’s cheating, and you’d never do that, would you?

Crafting in the game is how you gather better gear and items. It’s an extremely simple system of THING 1 plus THING 2 equals ???. I really hoped you could do stupid things like Dagger + Shortsword = Shortdaggersword, but alas, no such luck; the game makes you do reasonable, logical things like element + weapon = useful thing. Crafting takes a little bit of time to get into because it also requires money that you really don’t have much of at the start. It’s a fun little thing to do during the downtime between rounds, and once you are able to make items, you can sell things you craft for more money than you put into them. Even better, the game actually keeps track of combinations you’ve tried so you don’t have to worry about failed repeats.

I try crafting something that's kind of logical-ish.

I try crafting something that’s kind of logical-ish.

Although there are a few things about the game that are shortcomings, I honestly do not think they take much away from the overall experience. It’s hard to describe without playing it for yourself, but when rotating the pills, they don’t always rotate as they “feel” like they should. As veterans of Dr. Mario will understand, the pills have a predictable way of rotating. The only time this potentially gets in the way is when you’re trying to expertly place a pill into a tight spot, heh heh, and it winds up doing something other than expected.

Item drops were a tad confusing at first because there were so many pieces of gear that had the same stats. I later figured out that there isn’t much of a difference between the items and that their main use is as crafting fodder, but this isn’t obvious for new players.

I wasn’t too keen on linking your Twitter account to the game in order to increase how much loot drops. I don’t like apps posting for me automatically. Thankfully there are some posting options such as “no more than once every 15 minutes” or “only post boss kills,” but it feels both a clever way to get some free advertising and an annoying way to get some free advertising. It’s probably not a bad idea, but irks me. I felt that enough loot dropped for me without linking my account.

Finally, there is one song that plays during the first few stages that is so repetitive, it drove me up the wall. I had to turn the music off and pull up Spotify until I reached a new area. Other than that one song, though, the music is pretty good.

This game is fun and I’m definitely going back to finish it up to try to open up hard mode.

A puzzle game that’s NOT on a mobile device that I’m coming back for? This doesn’t happen much anymore. If you like puzzle games, this one is worth your time.


Dungeon of Elements was developed by Frogdice Games.

IGTlogo-01For $10 you, too, can relive the days when your dad wouldn’t let you play Mario 3 because he was addicted to some puzzle game starring Mario, a person I highly doubt has a medical degree.

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