Popularised by games like Puzzles & Dragons, mobile match-three puzzles games usually contain overly-complex mechanics, obnoxious microtransactions and a constant stream of ads for the amazing heroes you could get if you just spent enough cash. Take away those things and you get Match Land.
Developed by Race Cat and available as a free download for iOS and Android devices, Match Land strips away much of what annoys me about standard collectable character puzzle games, resulting in a delightfully streamlined game with an adorable pixel-drawn look.
The goal in Match Land is to battle through turn-based match-three puzzle adventures in order to harvest monsters to fuel a series of fantasy shops. Once enough resources are gathered the shop can be opened, producing coins and other resources handy for upgrading the game's heroes.
The heroes themselves are bright and cheery lot, their colours corresponding to the icons that appear in the puzzle sequences.
In battle, players are given a set amount of time to make as many matches as possible, after which damage is tallied and dealt. Cute little pixel monsters count down their attacks, so it's up to the player to murder their sweet little faces before they counterattack. Should the player triumph they will be rewarded with resources to upgrade their characters and shops in order to venture even deeper into the heart of Match Land.
It's a very sweet game that doesn't feel like it asks a lot. There's an energy counter, but when it's empty players can watch an ad to keep playing. Feels like a fair trade. There are more powerful characters to collect, but the game never parades them in front of the player. They're there, waiting to be unlocked through play or via in-game purchase.
Match Land is the most accessible and pleasant match-three puzzle adventure games I've played. If you're tired of waiting for your five-star anime character to drop or just looking for a fun time sliding around coloured icons, it's definitely worth a visit.