Review: Spooky Bonus

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Bringing the sort of mass produced puzzle gameplay found in droves on casual game portals and mobile app stores to the Steam marketplace, Spooky Bonus arrives just in time for All Hallows’ Eve to give gamers a match-3 high that, like a pumpkin pail full of candy, is sugary goodness without any sustenance.

Spooky Bonus is a tile-sliding puzzler with a Halloween theme, so instead of the puzzle-standard gems or bubbles or blocks, you’re swiping eyeballs, scythes, bats, skulls, and black cats left, right, up, or down to create rows and columns of at least three like objects. (You know the match-3 drill by now, right?) Matching four or more icons of the same kind generates special power-ups to help make your board-clearing duties a little easier and more exciting, such as silver bullets that clear a single column in one shot, exploding jack-o’-lanterns, vials of holy water that splash tiles in all directions, and the bane of vampires everywhere, nuke-like garlic bombs. Good thing games don’t have smell-o-vision…

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Along the 100-stage march through the dark environments of Old Town (witch’s woods, castle torture dungeon, insane asylum, etc.) on the way to slay the vampiress waiting in the crypt at the end, you’ll bank coins and unlock decorations and yard displays to create the spookiest of 2D haunted house wallpaper scenes. (There’s a built-in option to set backgrounds as desktop wallpapers, but for me the feature seemed bugged as nothing appeared on my screen but small border decorations framing a blank center image.) You don’t actually get any choice in how to customize the haunted house as the reward system is scripted out and decorations rarely cost more than you can afford at the time of unlock, but with each new yard feature placed you gain a new ability or an upgrade to an existing power-up. In addition to the power-ups gained through long matches and chain combos, there are six meter-based special powers that steadily fill up as certain glowing objects are matched, including things likes a wooden stake to instantly clear a target tile, a lightning spell that strikes random tiles across the board, and a tarot card to reshuffle the whole board.

Early on levels involve clearing a set number of different object types, either in a timed format or in a play-at-your-own-pace relaxed mode. However, new challenges come fast and furious in the form of tiles blocked off by stones or caught up in spider webs, golden skulls that must be dropped all the way to the bottom of the play area to be cleared, and a constant change in board shapes, sizes, and orientations. The only problem is that the game sort of blows its load prematurely. For the first 25 or so levels I felt like I was constantly seeing a new challenge or unlocking a new power, but the remaining 75 levels after that begin to blur into a steady rehash of the same handful of board challenges.

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Both the difficulty curve and reward loop even seem to flat line very quickly. I played through the whole game in timed mode, but from the first level to the hundredth never felt any pressure to beat the clock. It’s a little disappointing, like getting tricked with a granola bar or toothbrush in your bucket rather than treated by that Snickers bar or peanut butter cup you were hoping for. (Seriously, healthy neighbors should just butt out of Halloween!)

Spooky Bonus is a fun match-3 puzzler that definitely captures the Halloween spirit with a lighthearted charm, and if you stick it out there’s a worthwhile six hours of cheap, time-killing gameplay to snack on at your leisure. Ultimately, though, the game is like a sack of Halloween candy: full of tooth-decaying goodness that’s addictive and hard to stop eating, but once the bag’s empty it doesn’t take long for the sugar high to fade. Whether or not the tasty confectionary overload is worth the subsequent crash is up to you to decide.

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Pros:
+ Appealing Halloween theme
+ Fun, basic match-3 puzzling

Cons:
– Challenge and reward loop begin to fade fairly quickly

Game Info:
Platform: PC/Mac
Publisher: Grey Alien Games
Developer: Grey Alien Games
Release Date: 10/15/2015
Genre: Match-3 Puzzle
Players: 1
Buy From: Steam

Source: Review code provided by developer

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!