GungHo Online Entertainment’s F2P monster is a Gojira-sized phenomenon in Japan, and that’s no surprise when you consider its ingredients. This is a match-three dungeon crawler with the immediacy of Bejeweled, the collectable, upgradeable monsters of Pokémon, the propulsive force of RPG-style progression and an irresistible social component designed for maximum viral impact. Not to mention the allure of the capsule machines from which the rarest monsters are obtained.
You begin with a single creature from one of five elemental types. Enter a dungeon and you’ll battle groups of beasts by matching three orbs of the same alignment. Further matches in the same turn boost your attack multiplier, or you can line up heart icons to replenish health. Defeated enemies may drop an egg, which will hatch when you return, adding a new member to your monster squad.
It’s a simple setup that belies systems of real tactical depth. You can move orbs anywhere on the board, and smart players will take turns to line up chains, soaking up hits before unleashing combo attacks to remove a group in one turn. Each trip sees you recruit an ally from another online player: these can be used to fill elemental gaps in your squad, or for buffs to health or attack power. Either way, you’ll both earn points for teaming up, which can – and will – be spent on fresh additions to your growing roster.
There’s little new here, but it’s intelligently assembled, uncommonly generous, and dangerously habit-forming. It’s a healthier brand of addiction than a certain candy-based alternative, but those who can’t afford to lose hours of their day should consider this fair warning.
Puzzle & Dragons is free, and out now on iOS and Android. iOS version tested.