Swapping colorful objects to create rows of three or more is about as simple as a puzzle game can get. After years of playing titles like Bejeweled and Candy Crush Saga, seeing the patterns that make the best matches is almost second nature to me. Match-three games have become a mindless relaxing pursuit. Then came CocoaChina's 7 Elements, changing everything by adding two more fingers to the mix.
With its crisp, polished visuals and familiar layout, it's easy to mistake 7 Elements for another gem-matching game of the 'blitz' variety, giving players a limited amount of time to rack up as many points as they can. At a base level that's exactly what it is.
The best match-three games spice up the basic formula with a healthy dose of spectacle, and 7 Elements certainly delivers on that front. Each of the seven pieces on the playfield represent a different element—wind, water, plants, earth, electricity, fire and gold (it's on the periodic table so it counts). Matching four or more of any of these creates a larger piece which activates a power when grouped. Water cascades down in a line, washing away the pieces beneath it. Trees send out piece-eating roots in every direction. Fire shoots up in a column. Gold, the most important element, drops coins that can be used to purchase power-ups between rounds.
Match fast and frequently enough and the frenzy meter fills, launching into a score doubling special mode, lighting up the screen.
Frenzy Mode took me completely by surprise while recording this video, because playing 7 Elements in a fast and furious fashion isn't easy, at least not without a lot of practice. I've been conditioned to move one match-three piece at a time.
7 Elements lets me move three pieces at a time.
It took some major concentration to wrap my brain around the concept. Initially every move I made was immediately followed by a vulgar expletive as I realized the ten better moves I could have made had I just set the iPad down and used all three digits. My mind was still searching for opportunities to match five pieces, blanking on the opportunities to match seven or more.
The first day I played 7 Elements I ran myself ragged trying to recognize new patterns and spot new opportunities. I worked my brain so hard I actually got a headache. The more I played the easier it got. Soon I was moving fast enough to get that fever mode going. My score grows, my skill grows, and those regular puzzle games lose their charm with every massive match made.