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An Almanac For The 21st Century

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Might As Well Face It, I'm Addicted to Bugs

Might As Well Face It, I'm Addicted to Bugs

Smartphones have made our lives infinitely better. Remember when phones were just for making calls? Remember when phones had to be tethered to a wall in your home? What horrible times those were! Now I just have to take a slim little magic box with me and I can make phone calls, take photos, use apps to order food or a car or shoes or anything, and frankly do a million other things. I use my phone all the time, for so much, but I'm most excited to tell you about my latest phone obsession: A game called Best Fiends.

I don't remember how I found out about Best Fiends. I think I was looking for another app and saw it on one of those "Editor's Picks" or "Best Of" lists in the app store. It was free, and it looked pretty, so I downloaded it. When I first opened the app, I was immediately struck by the production quality. I mean, this game looks just plain gorgeous. There is a level of detail that you can't even appreciate properly because you're looking at it on your phone. (This may be a good time to note: Trying to take photos for this post, I realized that it is very difficult to take photos of a phone screen. I thought it would look cooler, but while I still think that's true, I also learned that I may never try it again.)

Once I was done being shocked by the beauty of a simple phone game, I was immediately intimidated, because this game isn't really all that simple. I'm not one for complicated games. I downloaded this because it was advertised as a match 3, so when I went through the initial levels and learned that while it is a match 3 game, it has many more elements to gameplay, I felt a bit tricked. Now that I've been playing for awhile constantly, I can say that they do drop you right in and you have to get used to the game on your own, but once you do, it comes quite naturally and you realize that it's not that complicated at all. Again, this is actually due to the amazing level of detail put into the game, which I'll expand on in just a sec. First, a little gameplay summary.

Best Fiends is about a gang of insects that are battling slugs. The insects form a sort of army that defeats the slugs by shooting them with various levels of power that they gain through you making matches on the game board of their respective colors. So, if you want the purple bug to attack a slug, make a match of purple mushrooms. You have a limited number of moves, and each of your bugs has a different attack level, and there are different goals for each level, so there is an element of planning involved. However, it's not incredibly strategic, and a lot of it comes down to luck, as the pieces are placed on the game board in a random configuration each time you play the level.

There are also powerups that are gained when you make enough matches of a specific insect's color, and you can use these to further your progress though the level. Beating the levels isn't the complicated part I referenced earlier - it's what comes after. Once you pass a level you are granted keys, these keys allow you to open boxes, and these boxes hold little yellow mites, blue mites, and diamonds. Sometimes you can even get extra energy or new insects for your growing army. You also get some of these things during your gameplay, but this added step is where I've gotten most of them. These little extras are what you use to grow your insects, which increases their attack power and their efficiency in the battle against the slugs. This is also the part that took me the longest to get used to. I was used to just matching colors, moving through levels, and having that be the end of it. This added level of gameplay not only makes it more interesting, but also more addictive and less frustrating. See, if you're stuck on a level, you don't have to keep replaying and replaying until you either win by a strange fluke or cave and pay 99 cents for more moves or lives or whatever. In Best Fiends, if you're stuck on a level, you keep replaying it, sure, but it's to gain yellow and blue mites so that you can make your insects more powerful, which in turn will help you beat the level. You get to keep the mites and diamonds and keys that you pickup during gameplay, even if you don't defeat the level, so these levels that you're constantly replaying actually help you move forward in the game. It's a pretty ingenious move on the part of the developers.

Before you start a level you get a little sneak peek of what's to come, so in the above photo I can see that in level 89 I'm going to have to beat four slugs and open three crates (crates come later in the game and are filled with yellow mites, which are added to your kitty when you open the crates), all in 27 moves. I can then scroll through a slot-machine like selection tool to choose which of my insects I want to use on that level. I can do this each time I play the level, but be warned, you have to go back to the level selection screen to do so. If you press "replay" at the end of the level you get your same bugs over again. There are three insects for each color, and each insect in the respective color has a different powerup that's associated with it. (That's what the little icons under the insects' photos are.) See what I mean about it being intimidating? They don't tell you any of this! There's no tutorial! You have to figure out this stuff on your own (or read this). In a way, though, I like that there's not an extensive tutorial at the beginning. Sometimes it's better to just learn through playing, and because this game is free, and gameplay is free, there's absolutely no risk involved.

Now, of course, you can choose to spend money on this game. Just like your Candy Crushes and your Two Dots, you can pay 99 cents to refill your lives (in Best Fiends it's called energy, ie, you have to expend your insects' energy to play the game, and eventually those little buds get tired). You can also pay for more diamonds or mites or more moves if you fail to complete a level. I'll admit, I have paid for some of these things, but usually because I'm battling horrible insomnia and this game distracts me from my looming insanity. You get a new energy unit every 10 minutes, free of charge.

Overall, Best Fiends is an incredibly fun, addictive game. What makes it better than a typical match 3 game, however, is the incredible level of detail. I've barely scratched the surface in this post - I could have told you about how each of the insects has not only a name, but a mini biography, or how each of the slugs has not only a different look, but a different attack strategy. Or even just mention that the music isn't annoying, and I actually play with the sound turned up?! Plus, if you download Best Fiends now, you'll be able to get fully immersed in it before the holidays, so you can take your phone into the bathroom and hide from your family while being thoroughly entertained.

Best Fiends is available for iPhone and Android FOR FREE.

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