Casual games get a bad rap sometimes, but I like to think in the modern era of mobile gaming people are starting to see the light. I’ll freely admit to have wasted hours on dumb match-3 titles like Dungeon Raid back in the early days of the iPad, for instance. The latest heir to the match-3 throne is Ironcast, a mech-battling title set in the Victorian era, and it shakes up the formula enough to feel fresh and new.
If you’ve ever played Puzzle Quest, you’ve probably got a pretty good idea of what Ironcast is all about. You’ve got a board full of icons and an imperative to match at least three of them at once by connecting like icons in a line. Matched icons grant various benefits; ammo icons load your weapons, repair icons let you heal your mech, scrap icons offer a little extra post-battle cash and so on. Things are complicated a bit more with Overdrive icons, which can be matched with anything and provide a critical boost to one of your mech’s systems, and Link icons, which allow you to match two sets of icons at once.
Just matching up icons won’t win you any battles, though, which is where things get mixed up a bit. Your Ironcast is fully loaded with a variety of weaponry and support devices and you’ll need to put them to work. Your weapons can range from heavy laser cannons to missile pods and they’re powered by ammo icons; you can fire as many times per turn as you’ve got ammo, so lock and load.
Shields, meanwhile, keep your mech safe, while moving around reduces enemy accuracy. All your systems are powered by Energy icons and your mech needs to be kept cool with Cooling icons, so there’s plenty to juggle during a battle. You’ve also got unique Ironcast abilities like a built-in missile system that run on cooldowns and can give you a much-needed edge.
There’s the basics for, you, really. You’ll get as far as you can doing this, but eventually you’ll lose a battle; there’s permadeath, so that means it’s time to start over. I’d call it a “roguelite,” but that’s stupid. Anyway, death isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since you’ll unlock new mechs and pilots based on your performance. As for victory, it relies on completing missions successfully and prioritizing the rewards you need to deal with each boss battle, since you can only go on so many missions before said boss. Generally you can expect to play for an hour or so at a stretch, which is expected for a more casual title of this nature.
Presentation…uh, it’s a game about steampunk mechs stomping around Victorian London shooting lasers at each other. That’s awesome. It’d be kind of difficult for that to not be awesome. Ironcast makes it work, as you’d probably expect. The match-3 icons are…easy to see and match, I suppose? There’s no problems here.
Puzzle aficionados are bound to love Ironcast, especially since there’s not exactly a port of match-3 king Puzzle and Dragons floating around yet. It’s an elegant, well-polished game that doesn’t overstep its boundaries and handles itself well. It’s basically the Victorian gentleman of games. How could you resist?