Last week, we saw the release of The Ensign, by the developer who ported Michael Townsend's A Dark Room to iOS. Now Townsend himself has released a new game, and, while we can't say we had much in the way of expectations from such an unusual developer, his use of the match-three mechanic is a surprise.
That said, don't go mistaking Gridland for other match-three games you might have played. There is definitely an aim to it, and it's not to indiscriminately match everything on the board: you have to take your time and apply a bit of strategy to the game.
The core mechanic is indeed to make matches by swapping adjacent tiles, but the game is divided in two parts, with your little dude up the top completing actions according to your actions. During the day, he gathers up the resources you collect to make and upgrade buildings. As time progresses, the types of resources you can gather increase, and some upgrade in response to the buildings -- wooden logs becoming wooden planks, for instance.
Resources are colour-coded and you have limited space in your warehouse, so you'll want to make the best matches for whatever your little dude is building at the time.
At night, how you play changes. Instead of building, you're fighting the creatures of the night: zombies, skeletons, rats, spiders. But you don't want to make indiscriminate matches; although you can match swords and shields to collect them, the other matches you make can land you in hot water. You have to carefully observe what happens when you make matches, take your time, and plan ahead accordingly. And, as with your buildings, your swords and shields can be upgraded.
If you die in the night, you immediately wake up on the previous day, so although there are survival elements built in, it's not as arduous as permadeath; the game saves every morning, which means there's a real feeling of constant progression.
If A Dark Room is any indication, Townsend has a pretty fascinating endgame written in. We haven't gotten to it yet, although if we had, we wouldn't want to spoil it. There are also loads of secrets and surprises to be uncovered; like A Dark Room, it's a lot deeper than it appears on the surface. Head over to the website and give it a play for yourself; at the moment, it's only browser-based (although free to play and with touchscreen support), but we're hoping to see an Android and iOS port sometime in the future.