Now Playing: Triple Town (iOS, Android, Web)

I first played Triple Town about a month ago when I remembered that Google+ had games. I forget now if it even had a tutorial at the time but I jumped in and started matching three. Indeed, the playfield is set up much like a typical puzzle game with random pieces cluttering things up and you being handed pieces one at a time. The big deal here is that each time you match three you create something new rather than clearing off the screen.

As its woodsy styling dictates: three patches of grass make a bush, three bushes make a tree, three trees make a hut and so on until you’re dealing in floating citadels and magical treasure chests. You get the satisfaction of scoring big points, curating the screen and creating a unique world. It’s one part Bejeweled, one part Keflings, it’s highly addictive and it’s everywhere! Despite being labeled as a beta I was able to spend hours in the game on Google+, Facebook, my Android phone and our iPad. Triple Town started life on the Kindle so you can’t even escape it on your eReader. Your progress isn’t linked across platforms (hopefully it will be!) and there isn’t an overworld map on the mobile versions but that didn’t stop me from playing… and playing… and playing while I tried to write this.

For as earthy and inviting as Triple Town looks it does have a dark side. I’m not talking about the incentives to spend real world money for more turns and power-ups, I’m talking about… bears. Seemingly innocent and cute bears who rapidly fill the playfield and always wander into just the wrong spots. Play for long enough and they’ll start calling in Ninja Bears who jump from free space to free space and — I’m convinced — actively block any matches I’m about to make. Even they have their benefit, though, as boxing them in turns the bears into tombstones, three of which add up to a church and so on from there. Like all puzzle game obstacles they’re a necessary evil and things would be WAY too simple without them but, damn, have I come to curse a bear!

With ads for only their other games, developer Spry Fox has included the familiar in-game store on Facebook and Google+. Turns slowly regenerate as you play but you’ll eventually run out. A chunk of turns costs coins but simply playing the game generates those for you. You’ll start to feel the pinch when you’re desperate for just one more tree to make a hut or could REALLY use a crystal to make a quick church. These cost coins as well and relying on them will leave you waiting for turns to renew or punching in your credit card number. There are also items that can only be purchased with diamonds (diamonds that can only be bought with real money) but I haven’t found any need for them in the weeks I’ve been playing the game. Turns don’t refill so quickly on the mobile platforms so Spry Fox has added an Unlimited Turns unlock for $3.99, another monetary option I personally don’t need but appreciate having available.

I’m not the type to fall into browser-based puzzle games on social network sites but I can’t stop coming back to Triple Town. That’s probably the best testimonial I can give to the game and a point I should’ve just stuck at the top of this piece. Considering it’s technically a beta I’ll also leave that recommendation as my score. Give it a try for yourself, you practically can’t escape it!

This review was originally posted at PEGreviews.com which is currently on hiatus