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Last Updated: August 2nd, 2011

I'm going to make this clear from the get-go: I'm a big fan of puzzle games. However, I'm not a fan of when developers think that throwing a new coat of paint onto an old concept constitutes something praise-worthy.

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Thankfully, Wiz Kid Jr, though unfortunately-named, is actually a pretty competent puzzler. Not content to just be a simple "match 3 or more" clone, it adds a couple features that bring some much-needed depth. In the game, you are a wizard that looks to defend his/her mana from hungry spirits. In order to gather mana, the wizard must match orbs of the same color. In order to protect it, he must eliminate the spirits as the appear.

Spirits spawn in waves, which occur after a certain amount of time has passed. The game pauses for the spawning, which is quite confusing; I wasn't sure if this broke up gameplay or just provided a "cooldown" period before gameplay resumed. These evil spirits consume mana and affect other orbs on the field with annoying results, leading them to become primary targets for elimination. As they're the same color of other orbs, making them part of a combo will take them off the board.

Matching orbs is intuitive and strategic, as you're swiping instead of merely choosing. This makes for some interesting situations where you can't grab all the linked colors, and need to decide which is the most productive to your further combos. The game plays a lot like Tetris Attack, as combos are easy to set up and rewarding when they pay off.

The reason I don't really like Bejeweled is the randomness that accompanies gameplay. Since successive combos are affected by the falling blocks, you feel like a little bit of a slave to the level generation. In Wiz Kid Jr, however, you're given a number of powers that help you influence the board, and keep the experience fresh.

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These fit into the wizarding theme, as well; you have to be able to spend that mana somehow, right? Powers allow you to eliminate one orb, multiple orbs (in a bomb burst) and others - the availability of these powers increase as you hit score targets and increase in difficulty level.

The cost to these abilities are a "lightning bolt" currency, which is earned by performing chain combos (longer than four orbs long). I find that these spells keep the game from becoming too frustrating, as evil spirits can sometimes spawn alone, with no similar colors around them. If you're particularly desperate, you can just zap them with a spell, and move on with the game.

I had a great time with this game because it was just so polished. Everything seemed to run smoothly, from the menus to the way that the swiping mechanism worked. I can write another full column on some of the problems Android games are having when keeping up with iOS titles, but Wiz Kid Jr restored a little faith that developers can get things done while developing for more than one device.

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And ultimately, that's what sold the game for me. I want a game that I'm not going to have to fight with every time I take out my phone, or has the ability to be creative, replayable and just plain fun. While Wiz Kid Jr. doesn't exactly break the mold on puzzle games, it at least has the balls to bring some new features the table and tie it all together in a nice setting.

The fact that this game is only $0.99 USD is icing on the cake. For that price, you're getting a solid puzzle game with polish and heart. Those are three qualities I want in every Android game.

Matt Demers
Matt Demers is a Toronto writer that deals primarily in the area of Android, comics and other nerdy pursuits. You can find his work on Twitter and sites across the Internet.