Time makes fools of us all. She's a harsh mistress, and she spanked me red raw last summer with a veritable smorgasbord of cracking PC indie games and the brutal expo circuit. This sadly meant that I wasn't able to review 10000000 for our sister site Mobot.net, a crying shame since tiny London-based developer EightyEight Games delivered one of last year's most addictive apps. Hectic match-3 mechanics and persistent character development interlocked in profoundly wonderful ways, giving us one of the most solid puzzle/RPG hybrids since the original Puzzle Quest.
Thankfully, 10000000 has now made its way to Steam, which opens it up to a whole new audience and gives us the perfect excuse to talk about it.
Time makes fools of us all. In 10000000, it's going to do so more often than not.
10000000's premise is deliciously simple: after waking up in a mysterious oubliette, you're tasked with amassing a high score of ten million points to successfully secure your release. You'll achieve this lofty goal by running headlong through some dangerous dungeons, killing monsters, looting chests and picking locks against the clock, but rather than using traditional turn-based mechanics, you'll rely on a neat Bejeweled's Match-Three system to get as far as possible in the strict time limit. Lines or columns have to be dragged and moved in their entirety, not individual tiles, which takes a fair bit of getting used to but makes for a significantly deeper experience.
A gauge above the battle board shows your character's progress through the dungeon, or more accurately, their desperate dash from left to right. When you encounter an enemy or a locked chest, you'll come to a stop, the timer starts counting down and the pressure starts piling on. You'll therefore need to match swords and staves to deal regular and magical damage, match shields to top up your ablative armour and keep the board clear of wood and stone tiles. Locked doors and chests require you to match keys, which are often in short supply. Enemies attack your time rather than your health, so as you take damage, your adventurer moves closer and closer to the dangerous left hand side of the screen (and vice versa). Since the action takes place in real time, and every match ties into your high score, it's one of the most pulse-poundingly stressful and hectic puzzlers out there.
After all, a Treant won't maul your face off in Zookeeper.
However, once your run ends and you mop the cold sweat off your brow, 10000000 completely changes the pace by returning you to your prison with all the cumulative experience, gold, wood and stone that you collected during previous attempts. Building resources are used to construct and upgrade a selection of permanent shops, in which you'll spend your hard-earned gold on better weapons, tougher armour and more resilient shields. Experience can be splurged on persistent perks to increase your survivability, damage output or resource collection potential. Crucially, every failed run feels like a minor victory in and of itself, and every upgrade allows you to get further into the dungeons, rank up and square off against new challenges. After relying on reflexes and quick-thinking, having to really think about how to spend your limited resources (or how best to grind for more) comes as welcome respite. Plus, you'll get to use different bits of your brain.
There's more. An alchemist shop lets you apply mutators and modifiers, all of which have painful drawbacks but can be used to devastating advantage. Jetpack Joyride-style missions award enormous sums of money and resources, but require you to totally change the way you play in order to meet their increasingly esoteric objectives. This extra depth and compelling persistent draw makes 10000000 maddeningly addictive, infuriatingly so, to the point where it will inexorably consume your life for the 4-7 hours it will take to complete. A post-game endless mode means that you can keep on matching after the campaign comes to a close.
The PC version comes with a few tweaks, including a new landscape orientation that changes the prison layout from three floors to two. A lack of widescreen support will probably annoy at first, but in practice, the dead space actually gives your mouse much more room to work with and ensures that you won't have to stop dead when the cursor runs into the edge of the board. You'll also get a selection of Steam achievements to strive for, one of which is so outrageously difficult that it's named after the one person who's been able to pull it off.
However, like several other iOS-to-PC titles I could mention [see also: Unstoppable Gorg and Galaxy On Fire II HD], the transition from touchscreen to mouse and keyboard hasn't been entirely successful. Moving lines with mouse clicks and drags never feels as intuitive or slick as it does on an iThing, with the extra peripheral acting as a bit of a barrier between your brain and the board. It's all too easy to fudge or overshoot a match in the heat of the moment, and a little more leniency when it came to the size of the match detection area wouldn't have gone amiss (or perhaps a little stickiness when you create a line of three or more icons). The larger resolution and screen size also robs the visuals of much of their charm, making the art style look rather primitive and ugly rather than authentically retro.
At the end of the day, though, these niggles aren't problems with the game; they're just testament to how well-suited the original game was for its launch platform. Critically, 10000000 still just as addictive as it ever was, and just as worthwhile a purchase regardless of what you happen to buy it for.
- Hectic yet deceptively deep puzzle gameplay
- Compelling persistent RPG elements
- Addictive beyond words
- Mouse control is slightly more finicky and less intuitive than a touchscreen
- Retro-styled visuals look rather ugly in a larger resolution
- Little in the way of new content, cheaper on iOS
The Short Version: 10000000 may be a little on the ugly side, but it's one of the most addictive, hectic and well-crafted puzzle/RPG hybrids on the market. Now that it's out on PC, you don't need an iThing to experience this extraordinary thief of time.
Basically, you need 10000000 in your life... and now you have no excuse.