I’ve become fond of Slingshot Braves, an Android game that’s a nice mix of Squids (another good game) and billiards, with a little Final Fantasy VII flavor thrown in (with their Elements, a sort of materia or socketable gems character enhancement system, with some locked, some open slots). It’s not a perfect game, but it’s fun and entertaining, though I may be biased since I love the geometry of billiards. Throw in a bit of character building, and I’m sold, much like how I’m a fan of how Puzzle Quest takes match-3 gameplay and adds RPG elements.
Tangentially, Gem Spinner II is an excellent match-3 game that I stumbled across recently. It’s my new favorite in the genre, even over other great games like Puzzle Quest, Marvel Puzzle Quest (qualified) and Bret Airborne.
Slingshot Braves even starts you off in proper Metroid tradition, with super strong characters fighting a dragon… then pulls you out of the daydream and into the life of a lowly Adventurer. Yeah… the story isn’t the game’s strong point. It’s not bad, it’s just thin, but I don’t mind. The play’s the thing.
You control a team of three characters, two of which are active on the battlefield at once. The third sits in reserve, where they can heal, which is handy if someone gets hurt. You can rotate characters out to approach tactical situations or heal up. There are five different types of weapons with different uses, though I’d note that spears are more tactically useful than the others due to the combo system. If you can keep a combo going by bouncing off of your teammates and baddies, you can really rack up bonus damage. Spears pierce through enemies (in fine RPG tradition), so they make it much easier to maintain combos when you can bounce off your friends, even if you’re surrounded.
Using the touch interface, you pull back on your character and launch them at the enemies (all on a flat XY plane, no 3D gameplay here, though the game uses 3D models), which is the “slingshot” mechanic. If you can figure out how your unit’s round footprint will bounce off of other units’ round bases, you’ll have a lot of fun bouncing around the arena, smashing foes. The game shows you the results of the first bounce with a dotted line, but if you’re good, you can get two, three or more bounces plotted mentally, which can be really satisfying to execute.
It’s a solid game, and free to play to boot. Some will react allergically to that, but it works very well here. There is some light competition involved, but it’s a matter of racing for points to get better gear in a prize ranking, never PvP. There’s little that offers good value for money, so it’s not crucial to spend on the game, and the game isn’t broken if you don’t. The main purchasable is “gems”, which can be used on a variety of things, but none are essential. The best gear is only available from the “Gacha” system, which is effectively a gear slot machine, but since multiplayer is always cooperative (metagame races for points aside), any money someone else spends on elite gear is only going to help you in the long run. (And perhaps oddly, they would make more money from me if they did move to a straight up “buy X armor/weapon” model. I hate crapshoot gambling for gear in general, and there’s no way I’m spending real money on a chance for goodies. The Extra Credits crew savaged the current F2P design ethos, rightfully, I think, but the lack of direct competition in Slingshot Braves saves it, I think.)
PvP won’t work in this design, being more or less “buy to win”, but at the moment, they aren’t bothering with PvP. So, there’s that asterisk waiting in the wings, perhaps, but I can hope that they are smart enough to keep away from PvP, or to normalize it if they introduce it, leveling the playing field. I suppose we’ll see.
For now, though, I heartily recommend the game.
Oh, and as to the “diversity” in the title, this amused me greatly. One of the recent armor sets in the Gacha was a really great set, with a Counter ability (automatically hit back for 10x damage received in melee) and a health regeneration ability. Either alone is worth its weight in gold, but both on one piece of armor, well, that’s borderline overpowered. Of course, it’s about the skimpiest armor in the game, which is ridiculous… but at least the design is almost equally ridiculous on both genders. Yes, that’s my lead character with a Predator/Optimus Prime helmet and a Las Vegas dancer outfit. Even his companions, in silly gear of their own, can’t really look at him. But it’s his best gear!