Zynga's Matching with Friends for iOS is likely to be a hit

At the Zynga Unleashed press event today, the company showed off several new apps, but the latest in the "...with Friends" genre feels like it could make it big in the iTunes App Store.

Matching with Friends
At the beginning of a game your job is to match up your colored tiles (bottom) with those on the board. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Matching with Friends (2.99, full version - Free, ad-supported version) is another in a long line of Zynga apps that let you play turn-based games with a friend on mobile devices. But instead of playing word games loosely based on Hangman, Scrabble, or Boggle, this time you'll be strategically placing matching colored blocks on a gameboard, then sending your move to a friend.

Like other Zynga games, Matching with Friends makes getting connected with your friends easy. Upon launch you'll be asked to sign in through either your Facebook or Twitter account. Once logged in, you can search for other players from your friends list or get automatically matched with a random player.

I started up a game with a random player right away, and fortunately for the sake of this review my opponent was active in completing her turns. While playing, I found the colors vibrant, the controls easy to understand, and bonus alerts self-explanatory. The only thing difficult about Matching with Friends is how to describe the gameplay.

Matching with Friends
Using the board from the first screenshot, I placed my first two sets of three jelly cubes to attempt to get the most points possible. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Matching with Friends is a little confusing at first, but the game teaches you the ropes, letting you play a short game to show you the basics. The object is to use your three sets of three jelly cubes and match them with the colors of the jelly cubes on the board. You also can rotate your three cubes to match up better with cubes on the board (touching more cubes of the same color) and to land on multiplier tiles for big points. When you're done placing all three sets of three cubes and you're satisfied with the positioning, you can end your turn, sending your moves to your opponent.

Each turn plays out in the same way, but there are a few variables that add to the fun. You can swap your jelly cubes for different color variations that might work better for what's on the board, and you also have bonus items like a bomb that can get rid of a colored cube that doesn't fit with your strategy.

What the gameplay and bonus items amount to is a challenging strategy game that requires thought, but quickly becomes second nature as you try to formulate the best move possible for the most points in each turn.

Will Matching with Friends hit the same heights as other Zynga games? That remains to be seen, but with Zynga's enormous user base and several popular titles already available, Matching with Friends might be a top hit before long.

 

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