Woolly Factory is a straight-up endurance assessing match-3 puzzler. With just a single type of power-up and the occasional “locked” piece, developer Egg Ball gets back to basics and really tests your speed, endurance and combo-making skills. Playing out in a series of rounds (or levels), Woolly Factory challenges players to make increasingly larger numbers of matches of 3 or more pieces before time runs out. You start out having to make 40 matches in the first level, and it jumps to 50, 60, 65, 70 then 75 or more as you progress through the game’s 20 levels and earn your place on the OpenFeint-supported leaderboard.
It’s not every match-3 game that has a story behind it, so I should take a moment to mention the premise behind Woolly Factory. Woolly is a kindly old grandma, who needs your help sorting all of the wonderful creations in her sewing shop, so that she can send them out to her customers as soon as possible. You must arrange Woolly’s delicate crafts into sets of three (or more) to form an “order” (match) by swapping them around. The game’s controls are just as you’d expect from any title in this genre. Simply swipe your finger over two adjacent pieces to swap their positions and make a match, these pieces disappear, remaining pieces slide down to fill the openings and new pieces appear at the tops of the columns. Occasionally there will be a special “push button” piece which, when pressed, will take out several other pieces throughout the gameboard which in turn may trigger other matches or at the very least help line up some future matches. There are additional “locked” pieces that will appear from time to time, which cannot be moved and must be removed by making a match which includes the the locked piece.
Woolly Factory currently only includes a single endurance game mode in which a per-level timer is constantly counting down. When you make a successful match, a little bit more time is added to the clock. When you get down to the final quarter of the clock, the screen starts flashing red and a cuckoo clock starts going off, a devious little bit of trickery which will really get your pulse racing a bit and fluster those players without nerves of steel. If you reach the level’s target number of matches in time, then the board and counter will reset for the next level. One new scribble-themed skin as well as several additional game modes are going to be added very soon including Chrono Mode, Training Mode and Contest Mode. In Chrono Mode, players have 2 minutes with which to earn the best possible score by chaining combos. Training mode tests players’ ability to make 350 orders (matches) without any time limit. Finally Contest mode becomes visible when there is an active contest available like the one Egg Ball is currently running as of today to win an iPad! The rules of Contest mode may vary depending on the competition.
Overall, Woolly Factory doesn’t really offer anything new or innovative in terms of gameplay, but one place where it really shines is all of the little visual touches, which are immediately evident from the game’s creative interactive “spinning wheel” menu system. The graphics consist of some nicely drawn artwork and animations, including a series of additional unlockable themes which allow you to change things up a bit and keep the game fresh. Every time you make a match there is a great animation on the bottom of the screen of the order being filled. You can listen to your own iPod playlist or the game’s catchy music and almost pinball-like sound effects.
Don’t let the kindly old grandmother fool you, Woolly is challenging. Unfortunately in such a crowded genre like match-3 games, it’s tough to distinguish yourself from the crowd and a solidly good game like Woolly Factory may get passed over for ones offering a few more bells and whistles. The graphics are top notch and until the additional game modes arrive, Woolly Factory may be just a straight-up endurance match-3 game, but boy does it do it well. Sometimes it can be fun and even more challenging to just get back to the basics, but the promise of more game modes and skins means that Egg Ball is committed to expanding this title further. At only 99 cents, you’ll easily get your money (and time’s) worth out of this game, especially if you attempt to earn all 42 of the game’s OpenFeint achievements!