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Bret Airborne

Match 3 games seem to be swarming Steam’s Greenlight page as of late, though I have yet to find a Match 3 series more in-depth than “Puzzle Quest”.  “Bret Airborne” draws a lot of similarities to “Puzzle Quest”, but instead of casting spells and fighting goblins, you’ll be taking the battle to the skies in a hot air balloon.  In this particular Match 3 puzzle game, you’ll be taking on the role of Bret Airborne who must help Doctor Atlus to thwart his evil brother and his band of merry minions.  Before we get started with the specifics, I’d like to thank Dave Toulouse from Machine 22 for seeking me out and providing me with a review copy.

Bret Airborne

Bret Airborne (PC, Mac)

The main menu will allow you to play the single player campaign, fight either the AI or another player (local only) in a custom duel, test your stamina in gauntlet mode, try the tower challenge, and adjust game options.  Gauntlet mode will pit the player against waves of AI opponents that increase in difficulty as they progress.  Tower challenge will task you with building a tower within a certain time limit.  Participating in a custom duel will give players the option to choose their aircraft, powers, and augmentations as well as whether or not certain gameplay elements (like repair tools) should be enabled/disabled.  The single player campaign will take you through a series of battles while telling a story in the process.  The duel mode is an appealing one, especially for those who don’t have a lot of time to be dealing with long campaigns.

The in-game interface (during a match) is fairly easy to navigate, though it may take a moment to become familiar with everything that you’re seeing.  You and your opponent will be sharing the same eight by eight playing grid with your individual control panels displayed along the bottom of the screen.  Your control panel displays your health, how many resources of each type you have, and what powers you can activate.  The numbers were a bit hard to read, and with no screen resolution options in the settings menu, I found myself squinting often.

Bret Airborne

The interface makes things clear-cut, though I wish the numbers in the control panel were a tad larger.

What makes “Bret Airborne” unique is the vertical line that runs down the middle of the grid.  During your turn, you can only switch two items on your side of the grid.  This vertical line will move horizontally when certain in-game events occur, giving you and your opponent more or less room in which to work.  Not matching three items, for example, will move the vertical line toward your balloon giving your opponent an extra column to work with on their next move.  At first, I found this to be annoying as I didn’t enjoy being limited to four columns at a time by default.  I found that I had to rely more on luck than skill in order to match four or more items together to gain the advantage.  I personally would have liked the option to remove the vertical line altogether, just so I could have more grid space in which to work.  After a while however, I began to see its strategic value and appreciated the idea more and more, especially when I discovered abilities that pushed the line toward my opponent.  This mechanic ended up being a love/hate relationship, but it’s certainly unique enough to appreciate.

The game features forty powers (active abilities) and augmentations (passive abilities), some of which you can take with you into the match to help defeat your opponent.  Powers are fueled by blue, green, and red blocks that you’ll match on the grid.  You can activate these powers to either help yourself or hurt your opponent in various ways.  It’s worth noting that the campaign will force you to buy these abilities whereas you’ll have the entire list to choose from in the duel modes, which is a welcome feature in my opinion.  Besides the blocks, you can match repair tools to heal yourself and cannon balls to hurt your opponent, among other things.  Those of you who have played “Puzzle Quest” will be familiar with these mechanics, since the mana gems & skulls featured in that game work much the same way here.  I do like the variety of different powers and augmentations featured in the game.  I have to admit, had they not been present, I probably would not have enjoyed my experience as much as I did.

Bret Airborne

You can try out abilities in duel mode before buying them in the campaign.

I’m very picky about Match 3 games, mainly because I find most of them monotonous and tedious to play.  “Puzzle Quest” was the exception as it introduced RPG elements and a leveling mechanic that kept me wanting more.  “Bret Airborne” doesn’t offer as much as “Puzzle Quest” in my opinion, but it offers enough to keep me coming back every now and again when I’m in the mood to experiment with different abilities.  Both “Bret Airborne” and “Puzzle Quest 2″ are going for ten bucks on their respective websites, so I would personally recommend the latter over the former if you had to choose between the two.

That’s not to say that “Bret Airborne” is a bad game by any means.  I found it to be a solid Match 3 game that will more than likely appeal to fans of the genre.  It does more than your average Match 3 game, which will please those who tire of matching three things just to simply go through the motions.  I had a fun time trying out different power & augmentation combinations to see what worked best.  Having all of the abilities to choose from in duel mode made this easy, which in turn, makes me a happy camper.  Some will find it to be ten dollars well spent while others will chalk it up to be just another Match 3 game in the endless sea of Match 3 games.  Personally, I recommend it, even though “Puzzle Quest” is more my cup of tea.  My advice is to try the demo first via the official site below and go from there.

Final Verdict: 7/10

You can learn more about and purchase “Bret Airborne” by visiting the following websites:

http://www.machine22.com/bretairborne/

http://www.desura.com/games/bret-airborne

You can help bring the game to Steam by voting for it on its Greenlight page, here:

http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=133077069

You can watch gameplay videos here:

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