Toybox, a top-down arcade shooter/Match-3 mashup developed by Barrel of Donkeys, is now available from the app store. Requiring split attention to two very different game genres whose gameplay intertwines in interesting fashion, Toybox manages to create a unique experience that’s more novel than addictive.
- Presentation has fun childlike quality and animations are smooth
- Soundtrack has relaxing quality
- Tap and drag controls are responsive and easy to use
- Interesting blend of two different genres
- GameCenter integration for achievements
- Single level per week could lead to out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality
- Can feel a little repetitive
- Creating combos is more difficult than expected
Toybox splits the gaming screen into two sections: the left side features a simplified top-down arcade shooter where rocket ship movement is controlled by your left thumb, and the right side features a simple Match-3 game where your right thumb selects the column into which each colored block should drop. Wait too long and one will be selected for you. Your main goal is to blast oncoming ships and avoid exploding for as long as possible, racking up points to challenge other gamers in week-long competitions. Shooting any ships with blinking lights will cause a block of the same color as the destroyed ship to appear in the matching game. Creating a row or column of 3 like colors will cause those blocks to disappear and simultaneously clear any enemy ships from the left side of the screen. Setting up combos, while extremely difficult to do, promises to offer big points and extra lives. Your ship starts out with 3 lives and any contact with an opposing ship or bullet will cost you one life, sending you back into battle with a temporary protective shield. Gameplay generally doesn’t last too long, while the oversimplification of both gaming genres and fractured attention leads to feelings of repetitiveness.
The graphic style is pretty nice, as the toy spaceships and small gaming boards are reminiscent of kid’s toys. The soundtrack also has a cheery, wholesome feel, with sound effects that delight. The controls offer multiple touch options, but in general you simply drag your thumb to move the spaceship out of harm’s way or tap a column to drop a block. The animations are smooth and enjoyable, and everything felt very comfortable on an iPod Touch screen. Replay value is decent, as you’ll have a week to learn the current level’s ins and outs and try to top your friends and random opponents. However, waiting a week for a new level can feel like a long time, at which point many gamers may have moved on to more exciting and instantly rewarding games. Global leaderboards do not use any popular social gaming networks, and you can only view your own rank in relation to others without the ability to see the whole list. At $0.99, Toybox is a 3.5-Dimple challenge.