Faeries vs Darklings: A ridiculously good-looking Bejeweled clone

Faeries vs Darklings
It's as if Atari said to themselves when planning their newest social game, "When you can't beat 'em, you might as well join them." Faeries vs Darklings (FvD) by Atari is, for all intents and purposes, Bejeweled Blitz with a new skin, some new characters and a slight variation on gameplay. Players in FvD are tasked with either protecting the forest lands as a Faerie or destroying them as a Darkling. This is done through a match-three game, of course--you know, the genre that PopCap had well-covered for years?

While FvD is certainly a wonderful game that serves the genre of match-three well, I simply cannot get past the fact that new Bejeweled rips are still being created by major studios. Puzzle Quest admittedly is a Bejeweled clone, but its story and role-playing game elements do enough to justify its existence. The most obvious differences between FvD and games like Bejeweled Blitz and Puzzle Quest are that FvD sessions don't run on a one minute timer and enemies don't have hit points. And that's about it.

Find more of our impressions after the break.

FvD Spells
But, please, do not get me wrong. Faeries vs Darklings is a ton of fun packed into a game with brilliant graphics, animation and presentation. The game's tutorial does its job well in teaching players to ropes. While the center of the screen features the game board with red, green, blue, yellow, purple and orange gems to match in rows of at least three, the top of the screen is actually your primary objective. Depending on which faction you decided to play, either a Faerie or a Darkling will be encroaching upon your version of the forest. If it reaches your end completely, the level is over.

And this is where matching comes in. Over time, Faeries or Darklings (again, depending on your faction) will appear in an area to the left of your game board with specific numbers and colors of jewels next to them. You'll need to match these jewels in both the number and color called for in order to summon that helper so that it fend off the enemy above. In a way, you do have a timer, but instead it's between helpers rather than an overall timer. Successfully defend your end of the forest long enough and you'll be declared the winner.

Lost the game
Between matches, players will be able to spend coins earned through victories on Spells. These bonuses--sound familiar?--will give you unique abilities while defending your forests like destroying rows of jewels or suspending the enemy in motion for a few seconds. They're interesting ways to mix up gameplay while giving you an advantage, but the whole idea just reeks of Bejeweled.

And while one would imagine that the variety between bonuses and the ongoing battle above would all coalesce together for enjoyably complex gameplay, it actually becomes too confusing. Perhaps I'm just no good at puzzle games, but the enemies appear to move to too quickly toward my end of the forest. All the while, I'm at a loss to find that last set of three yellow jewels to set loose another helper. And if this is happening on the easy levels, I'd hate to even attempt those at medium difficulty. (Keep in mind, this is coming from the same guy who has yet to break 300,000 points in Bejeweled Blitz.)

Faerie Defense
Atari has made several strides to prevent comparisons to the king of match-three games, but Faeries vs Darklings tends to crumble under its own weight. There is simply too much going on at once to keep track of. Simply put, this game is damn difficult. But don't let the whining of a puzzle game "newb" stop you from giving it a try. Faeries vs Darklings is one of the more visually appealing social games we've seen. It's too bad that it is a crack at a well-established genre with too many clones to count.

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