Jelly Splash has spent just over a week on the App Store and it’s already enjoying a spot at the top of the chart for free apps. It’s a fun, lighthearted, and addictive puzzle game in the same vein as Candy Crush Saga. Just like Candy Crush, its gameplay is simple but engaging — easily hooking players before cranking up the difficulty.
Jelly Splash has charming graphics and extremely accessible mechanics that make it super easy to get into. Cute jelly blobs, polished artwork, and light whimsical music ensure the game appeals to players of all ages and skill levels. The tutorial is limited to a forced first move in a few of the early levels in order to teach new concepts. Once you’ve completed the mandatory move, you have full control for the rest of the level.
Instead of candy-swapping, Jelly Splash asks players to connect lines of three or more same-colored Jellies. Longer connections yield extra points and can create powerful Super Jellies. A Super Jelly will destroy an entire row or column at once when it’s included in a connection. Glowing white arrows appear behind a Super Jelly either vertically or horizontally to indicate if it will destroy a column or row. When a Super Jelly is part of a connection, its ability will trigger from the last Jelly in the connection rather than from the Super Jelly itself. This actually significantly contributes to the amount of strategy that goes into playing the game as it gives players so much more control over what Jellies they’re squashing.
Despite this extra edge Jelly Splash has over Candy Crush in the strategy category, it still suffers from some of the same problems that make Candy Crush so extremely luck-dependent (and by luck-dependent, I mean exploitive). Small issues include things like irregularly shaped boards making it difficult to predict how Jellies will settle down after making a match. A much bigger issue is the board randomization — each level has a fixed layout and objective, but the board’s contents are randomly generated. Skill is very important to success in Jelly Splash, but its hard to understate how important the luck of the draw is too. If you are having trouble with a level, you are bound to beat it eventually if you replay it until you happen to have a board randomized generously in your favor. Of course, replays don’t come cheap: each time you fail a level costs a life and you can only stock up on five at a time. Regaining lives requires players to wait 30 minutes per life, pester their Facebook friends for lives, or buy them outright with in-game currency (which, in turn, is acquired through in-app purchase).
Jelly Splash unquestionably uses some of the same exploitive monetization techniques as the controversial Candy Crush. That said, I enjoyed my time with the Jellies more. First of all, Jelly Splash is extremely responsive and, frankly, it’s a delight to interact with. Everything you do is rewarded with splashy visual effects. The Jellies sleep until you poke them and, when you do, they squish and jiggle just like jelly. The music is relaxing and so much less repetitive than Candy Crush’s. Finally the line-connection mechanic feels fresher (though we’ve seen it before in titles like Puzzle Craft and Dots). The line-connection mechanic also feels like a better match for short, bite-sized levels than gem-swapping does.
Jelly Splash is far from perfect. Chances are, if you’re reading this review, you’ve probably played several games just like it. Early levels are excessively easy to get you hooked and the difficulty curve ramps up fast to encourage real-money spending. Without patience or a stable crew of Facebook friends to appeal to, the game’s difficulty will probably get frustrating around level 30 (out of over 150). Despite these critiques, Jelly Splash remains fun and extremely addictive. It features five different game modes which are all fun and require surprisingly different strategies despite nearly identical gameplay. If you liked Candy Crush, you’re almost certain to like this too. If Candy Crush was a little too much for you, I personally found Jelly Splash a little less in-your-face when asking for your time and money, so it might scratch the same itch without getting under your skin. In any case, it’s free and I’d recommend it to anybody who enjoys casual puzzle games.
Download Jelly Splash at iTunes App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/jelly-splash/id645949180?mt=8