Casual games aren’t usually my thing (I’ll never understand the allure of hidden object games), but I’ll admit to enjoying a few match-3 games in my time. In fact, I’ve lost entire weeks of my life solely to Birzzle, which is an incredibly addictive and fun game. Heroes of Kalevala, on the other hand, starts off fairly promising, but is eventually so desperate to throw in unnecessary gimmicks that it completely undermines any potential fun that it could have offered.
First, the good
Heroes of Kalevala isn’t an unmitigated disaster by any means; there were several moments and levels where I was actually enjoying myself. The whole premise of turning all of the yellow tiles blue by matching pieces on top of them is simple enough to be easily understood and difficult enough to be challenging, after all. Even better, there’s a hero system where matching up 3 or more special “hero pieces” causes that hero (who you select before each level) to use their special move to help you out. Ahti, for example, causes a flood that wipes out any lower yellow tiles that you haven’t gotten to, while Wellamo targets a small area of yellow tiles anywhere on the board and turns them blue. All of these elements, if incorporated well, could have led to a great game.
In practice, however, there are problems with each of those things. The game soon becomes about more than just making yellow tiles blue; metal tiles and boulders and ice that all require multiple hits to destroy are a fine way to increase the difficulty, but the presence of “locked tiles” that can only be unlocked by making it a part of a match soon begins to cause problems since there are often no tiles that match with them anywhere near. This means that you’re forced to frantically match things around the board, hoping that the new pieces that fall down will be of the right type and in the right location to help you out. Basically, later portions of the game end up coming down to luck rather than skill.
Black tar is the devil
Nothing makes the game’s sudden reliance on luck more apparent than the stages that incorporate black tar. Not only can it only be removed by matching near it, but it actually spreads out across the board over time (swallowing up your pieces in the process). This means that if you have no pieces that can match near it, you have no choice but to let it grow. Once it gets big enough, however, it’s virtually unstoppable, and at that point your best option is to just restart the level and hope for better luck as far as piece positioning goes. Now, if tar was only incorporated in a few levels, it would be little more than a minor nuisance, but I noticed it in every other level once I was past a certain point. It’s my single greatest annoyance with the game.
Most heroes are completely useless
Heroes are also flawed by design, with all but one of them proving to be completely useless. I found Ahti helpful in two stages (out of something like 78 that I went through), and despite using every possible hero that I had unlocked, Wellamo was the only one who actually made things easier due to her tendency to aim for areas I was having trouble clearing. The other heroes seemed to remove pieces and aim at yellow tiles completely randomly, more often than not either complicating matters or having no impact whatsoever. Because of this, I found myself relying on Wellamo for almost the entirety of the game. One would think that the whole point of having a bunch of different heroes is to be able to use their different strengths to overcome different kinds of challenges (and this would have made it a better game), but it didn’t work out like that at all.
The gimmicks take their toll
Later on, you find yourself in maps that are so oddly-shaped and filled with locked tiles, ice, boulders, and black tar that you only have one or two possible valid moves. By the end of the game, I was facing a “piece reshuffling” screen one to three times per level because all those gimmicks were reducing the number of valid moves. That’s just bad design, and doubly so since the levels are timed.
Have your village and build it, too
Between levels, you’re given a little village that you can build and plant things in. Building houses means you get people in your village, and planting certain trees ensures that they’re happy. At the end of the match-3 levels, you gain a gold bonus based on the number of happy villagers you have, and this is helpful since gold unlocks new villages, new heroes, and new items that occasionally help in the match-3 sections. On the subject of gold, I feel that it’s important to mention this: the game ends when you get to the final village and build an extra-expensive item in it. This is an incredibly anticlimactic ending to the game, and while the story is virtually nonexistent throughout the game, that doesn’t mean that the ending should be as boring as buying an item.
Graphics are nice, but busy
The graphics are nice and colorful, but later levels become so busy-looking that it’s difficult to tell where everything is. It could be that this is intentional in order to make later levels more challenging, but it’s honestly more annoying than challenging. However, the earlier levels and hero art and all of that stuff is surprisingly well done.
The music is good, but repetitive
One thing that really stood out to me was the music, but while it’s really memorable and unique, each village has its own “level song,” meaning you’ll be hearing that song repeatedly until you move on to the next village. The music could have benefited greatly from some variance, because as interesting as the music is, hearing anything twenty times in a row can cause it to wear on you.
Here’s what you should do: