At least two of the elements which make up this atmospheric and well-crafted abstract puzzler by Mathias Tauber are Match 3 and Mahjong. Starting off simply, it soon begins to tax your powers of logical and lateral thinking, and – with multiple solutions to each of the 66 puzzles on offer – provides a good challenge for fans of the genre.
The challenges in Alchemist Puzzle – 5th Element consist of a series of board layouts, each grouped thematically into one of the four elements: and the mysterious fifth element itself. Tiles with different colours and symbols are arranged on the board: your task is to clear the space by dragging three or more identical tiles next to each other, causing them to vanish.
As the game progresses, the difficulty is ramped up via the introduction of grey tiles which don’t allow you to drag tiles past them; and increasingly complex layouts, including Mahjong style levels where multiple layers of tiles are stacked on each other, forcing you to clear the upper layers before you can progress to the next.
Stars and points are awarded based on your success on each level: clear the whole board and you’ll get three stars and big points; leave a few tiles unmatched and your award is less impressive. Even if you fail to completely clear the board however, assuming you only leave a few tiles behind you’re still allowed to progress to the next level, meaning particularly fiendish puzzles don’t necessarily bring the game to a grinding halt.
As the gameplay can get a little repetitive, it’s a title probably best played in small bursts rather than long sessions, but the sense of reward you get when you progress is enough to keep you returning.
Graphically, Alchemist Puzzle is attractive, with an atmospheric representation of a wizard’s bookshelf holding the levels, and a visually appealing ‘magic trail’ effect when you drag your tiles around the board. Although there are no sound effects, the accompanying music score matches the mood, and gives the game a relaxing feel which also helps fire up the brain cells you’ll need to tax to solve the harder puzzles.
Achievements and high scores are recorded on the Game Center, but the main challenge and satisfaction come from solving the puzzles themselves: particularly as there are multiple routes to success, which also helps extend the title’s longevity.
Alchemist Puzzle – 5th Element is a simple title with no needless bells & whistles to get in the way of its challenging yet relaxing gameplay. Fans of original abstract puzzlers will find a quite a bit to keep them entertained here, in a game where the elements combine to good effect.
Score – 6/10