As the title suggests, Chaotic Box’s latest game Match Panic is a frantic matching game. One of the dangers with putting the word “match” in your game’s title is that some people may immediately dismiss you as just another match-3 game. I assure you that this is not the case and Match Panic certainly warrants your attention. And your attention is exactly what it will require as it is a frenetic, level-based endurance sorting game where you must quickly separate a long line of 40 or more cooky pixel art characters onto their correct sides of the screen.

The instructions are simple, just tap on the left or right side of the screen to sort the icon at the head of the line into the grouping on the corresponding side of the screen. Things start off easy, with just two types of characters to sort, but as you progress, additional types of icons are added and you must try to keep up with the changes, correctly sorting the newly introduced species as well. Quickly sorting the icons will cause your streak multiplier to increase and thus, so will your score. A steady pace is key to your success as you will also be fighting against the clock, and a mis-sorted icon will cost you precious time and reset your multiplier.

The icons for any given level are chosen at random from the pool of twelve unlockable characters. The first (of an infinite number of levels) contains a total of 40 icons which must be sorted. Each time you successfully complete a level, the number of icons will go up by six, but eventually this increase is reduced to 5 and then 4 once you’ve reached level 20. Fortunately to help you deal with this ever-growing number of icons, there are several powerups that appear in the icon stream. Successfully matching the icon on which the powerup appears will trigger it. This could be a clock which adds time to the timer, a bomb which destroys a number of icons, or a swap which bestows good karma on you, changing the next 10 or so icons in the line to match the one currently at the front of the line. An extra powerup is added every few levels to help cope with the extra icons. These are a great start, but I really hope that we might see even more types of power ups in future updates.

Frank Condello, is the one man jack of all trades designer, programmer, composer and artist that makes up the development studio known as Chaotic Box. If the name Chaotic Box sounds familiar, it should, as the studio is also responsible for last year’s excellent game Silverfish. This time around Frank went for a more retro style, creating some cute pixel art characters for the icons and a cool NES-era theme song for the game. Unfortunately this great music isn’t carried into the actual gameplay, but there are some nice sound effects and a Super Mario Bros-esque fanfare when you complete a level.

As simple a concept as it is, Match Panic is both fun and pretty darn addicting. When playing the game, I found myself completely tuning out my surrounds, trying to focus on the task at hand. You’ll be thankful for the level structure, which does a nice job of giving you pause points to stop and regain your composure, especially if you are coming off a particularly nerve-racking round where you just squeaked in the last match with a second to spare. In a game like this, one probably doesn’t give much thought regarding the level design, but it’s obvious Frank did. The randomness of each level in all aspects of the icons, from their groupings in line, to which side they’ll need to be sorted on to which icons will be used for a level makes it so you always need to be on your toes. And should the luck of the draw end up having to sort some of the more similarly colored icons…well then…good luck with that!

In Conclusion

Match Panic may sound like an easy game, but it will surely put your concentration (and luck) to the test. It is the epitome of the “simple to learn, difficult to master” game. Everyone loves to sort stuff, so this game is ideal for players of all ages. Don’t worry, the loss of time that you’ll experience is completely natural, for once you try Match Panic, you can help but be compelled to play game after game after game.