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Little Legends: The Battle for Willow Lane takes Match-3 to a more frantic level

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The match-3 mechanic popular in casual games — like Bejeweled and Candy Crush — is already a time-tested win for keeping players going, according to Reentry Games' artist Heather Adams. But for Little Legends: The Battle for Willow Lane the studio wanted to build on this gameplay, adding smaller flourishes and mini-games to round out its content.

Little Legends is a two-player real-time multiplayer puzzle game, as Adams describes it. The demo I played was on a Nexus tablet, and via Wifi or Bluetooth I was able to connect to a player on another tablet. Adams said the game, which soft launched for PCs earlier this year, was always meant to be a multiplayer title, but mobile always seemed like the better fit due to the ease of accessibility and connectivity of smartphones and tablets.

Players are given a grid filled with various multicolored shapes, similar to the playing field of Bejeweled, and must swap shapes' places in order to line up three or more of the same kind. Matching rows or columns of shapes will be removed from the board and replaced with more shapes — this will continue until the round's timer runs out. Each player must move quickly to make as many matches as possible before the time runs out — or before players' health in drained.

The twist in Little Legends is each player controls a character, one of several morbid but adorable critters like a cyborg teddybear or baby shark. Each character is allotted a certain amount of health. Health can be whittled away by using characters' unique special attacks, such as a tornado of hearts or a bomb-firing cannon. These attacks are powered by mana, which can be collected by making shape matches on the grid.

Some of these special abilities and power-ups trigger minigames like a half-minute of target practice or charging up a parrot that spits rainbow-colored lasers. The presentation is all over the place in these minigames, but the level of bizarreness they achieve and the way they break up the matching action are enjoyable.

Adams explained that Reentry knew it wanted to make a matching game from the beginning. As they came up with the somewhat frivolous idea of characters that could be equipped with abilities and buffs, it didn't look like the mashup was a good fit — until they realized it just worked.

Little Legends: The Battle for Willow Lane is currently up for voting on Steam Greenlight and soft-launched on Kongregate earlier this year. The beta can also be downloaded directly from Reentry Games' website and the studio is hoping to release the title for iOS and Android soon. Adams noted that cross-platform play will be available for all versions of the game. You can check out a trailer for the title below.