Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Candy Crushin'

That damn owl. No matter what I do, I can't get past "Dreamworld" Level 101 without odious Odus the Owl and his little moon scale tipping over and ending my games. Usually I'm pretty good about keeping the colors even, but this level requires using lots of combos to remove lots of pieces at once, so it's nearly impossible to keep them in balance. I have plenty of boosters in reserve, but they're not very helpful. What I really need is some kind of booster that knocks the bug-eyed little twerp out for a couple of moves so I can execute my combos without worrying if I'm going to knock out too many candy pieces of the wrong color. Sorry, I'm rambling.

Yes, readers, I've succumbed to Candy Crush Saga addiction. If you read my previous iPad post, you'll know that I started playing the beloved match-three mobile game just after Christmas and I've been at it ever since. Whatever bug was preventing me from using the Facebook version finally resolved itself so I've been using it to play the online version. I've currently worked my way through two hundred of the regular levels, and I'm waiting out the multi-day timer to move on to the next section of the game. You can either pay or bother your Facebook friends to move ahead without the waiting period, neither of which I've been inclined to do. I've also beaten one hundred of the recently released Dreamworld levels that essentially puts you through levels you've already played but adds restrictions governed by that damn owl. No timer on those yet. I'm just stuck playing Level 101 over and over.

So I've been on Facebook daily, crushing those candies, usually for about an hour in the evenings or longer on weekends. I've gotten good enough at it that I can play a level while simultaneously watching "The Daily Show" or "The Big Bang Theory." I've given up my previous casual gaming addiction, Pepper Panic, though I've tried the new Pepper Panic Saga on Facebook and liked it. However, I've beaten all the available levels and the game developers aren't releasing new ones fast enough to get me to really invest much attention. Candy Crush Saga, however, has been another matter. The most recent levels I've been playing don't depend on skill to beat them, but often dumb luck. The only way to solve some of the puzzles is if you get the right configuration of candies from the start, which can take dozens of attempts. I've been stuck on some levels for days, particularly in Dreamworld because the margin for error is so much smaller. However, the illusion that skill might affect the outcome of a game keeps me playing.

I've seen other players rant about elements of Candy Crush that don't bother me much. I honestly don't mind the timer restriction that only lets you attempt to pass a level five times before you have to wait a half hour for another turn - it's actually what has gotten me to put the laptop down and do something else in a few cases. The level advancement timer isn't much of a hassle either, though I wish the wait times weren't so inconsistent. I also like that the vast majority of the time there's no timer for the actual gameplay. I can abandon a game to go eat dinner or answer the phone and pick up right where I left off an hour later. The Flash player that runs the game occasionally crashes, eating one of my lives, but it doesn't happen very much.

I'm also not at the stage yet where I'm obsessing over tips and strategies, though I find the culture that has developed around the game is fascinating. I admit that I've browsed through Etsy more than once looking at all the Candy Crush inspired merchandise. It's a lot more fun than the paltry selection of official items I've been able to dig up. Frankly I'm stunned that we're not seeing striped candy pieces and color bombs emblazoned on everything the way we are with the Angry Birds. We're only just starting to see actual Candy Crush branded candy in circulation. I'd consider buying a stuffed Odus toy just to be able to pummel him when I get frustrated.

Oh well. In a couple of days Level 201 on the regular game should be available and I can spend some time playing levels that don't involve watching that little purple punk freak out after every other move. And eventually I'll luck out and have a good game where everything goes right and I can finally move on the Dreamworld Level 102. Maybe by that time they'll release another set of Pepper Panic Saga levels or some other mobile game will have attention. Even though I'm a Candy Crush devotee now, these infatuations have proven to be all too fleeting.

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