Wot I Think: 10,000,000

By Alec Meer on February 14th, 2013 at 9:00 pm.

After a few months of making people happy on iPhone/Pad, EightyEight Games’ lo-fi match-3/RPG mash-up 10,000,000 arrived on PC a couple of weeks back, for a low, low price and not a lot of fanfare. I quite fancied a go. So I had one. Then I wrote this about it.

Any games critic with at least one metric ounce of common sense knows better than to call a game ‘addictive’. For starters it’s lazy language, and for another thing anyone who truly believes that playing a videogame for longer than is perhaps wise equates to injecting heroin into one’s genitals probably has far greater problems than low willpower. Damn you though, 10,000,000, you nearly had me. I nearly used the ‘a’ word: that’s how hard I fell for you.

10,000,000, a quiet hit on iPhone last year, is a match-3 game. But wait! It’s also an auto-runner. But wait! It’s also a roguelike. Sort of. A little. Not much. Alright, I basically just said that to make sure you kept reading instead of rolling your eyes. It is a dungeon-crawler though, of a sort.

One of the troubles I’ve often had with match-3 games is answering the question ‘why am I doing this? I make a row of shiny things, but only to make them disappear and a number go up.’ Obviously the observational challenge has a certain pull, and there are levels of remarkable mastery to obtained by those most able and willing, but for me at least that ‘hang on a gosh-darned second…’ moment is rarely far away.

10,000,000 succeeds, and so very nearly warrants the ‘a’ word, because it lends purpose to the icon-matching. Not grand, sweeping, change-the-world purpose, obviously, but completing a sequence achieves something more than completing the sequence. Three swords biff a monster. Three shields stop a monster from biffing you. Three keys unlock the chest or door which is preventing your vital forward-motion. Five swords in tandem with three wands which results in five more swords when the first lot clears is like the best birthday party ever.

Yes: it’s a match-3 game where matching 3 hits stuff and loots stuff. On top of that, your character is forever trying to rush forward, and if he can’t – because he can’t line up the necessary tiles to kill a monster or open a lock – the game’s invisible timer gradually pushes him further towards the left-hand side of the screen. Time and again I fell into panic because I couldn’t seem to line up three swords, so the dragon or knight or treant I was up again slowly shoved my little guy backwards. I missed obvious matches because I was desperate. Even though that enemy could not kill me as such, the terror that it might end my run if I couldn’t line up three staffs or swords was absolute. Because once I reached the farthest left-hand edge, it’s game over.

Except it isn’t. He goes back to his cell with any resources he won (gold, experience, wood, stone) and can spend them on assorted upgrades, such as damage, timer delays, defence and all kinds of combos that people who are good at this thing (unlike someone like me, who often just frantically slides icons around in the desperate hope of accidentally getting a match) can make good use of. Also, if you beat your last high score, your overall score goes up. Up, up, up, forever chasing the titular, incredibly hard to Google, 10,000,000.

The score is not additive, so if you don’t beat your previous highest score on a given run, your number ain’t going up. The upgrades, and the levelling up you do by meeting certain minor objectives, help with both your score modifier and your ability to overcome obstacles, so what initially seems like an impossible number in fact is achievable with a solid half-day of play.

It’s a game designed to be played in chunks rather than binged on, but that probably won’t stop you. I binged. I binged hard. Of course, offering multiple strands of eminently obtainable short-term goals can be exploitative design, but 10,000,000 is so jolly and self-aware, and indeed strategic to a point, that I couldn’t possibly accuse of it any such malevolence. It’s an apparently effortless and pleasantly wry fusion of three genres, it’s free from any micro-transaction naughtiness and it’s the kind of game where attaining a higher level has a truly tangible effect, rather than an incremental one.

Unfortunately it as perfunctory as iOS ports to PC get, to the point that it has to sadly flash up a note upon loading to let you know that it will totally ignore your keyboard, and dragging icons around with the mouse feels slightly laborious because it’s been made with finger-flicks in mind. It doesn’t scale up terribly well to a high-res screen either, but then its consciously retro, nut-sized pixel aesthetic means it doesn’t really need to. It’s also a game where anything visual necessarily takes a back seat to the terrible, wonderful hunger that drives your forward.

Clearly, with any analysis of what you’re doing the game’s as hollow as even the cruellest Bejewelled clone. But it doesn’t feel it. It feels like challenge, it feels like reward, it feels like tension and release, and it feels like an impossible task steadily, satisfyingly becoming possible. Great stuff: it deserves a more careful port, and its name is all but suicidal, but it’s still a little wonder which proves the match-3 concept is far from flogged to death.

10,000,000 is out now, currently via Steam only on PC, for £3.99/$4.99.

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30 Comments »

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  1. Commander Gun says:

    I’ve had quite some good hours playing this in the train to work. I never played it at home while i could, so i think this is the perfect game to do when you have nothing better to do. That may sound bad, but i actually mean it as a compliment. However, i think it is best as a moble game.

  2. hypercrisis says:

    I’m curious as to how it compares to the similar series Puzzle Quest?

    • trjp says:

      Much, much, much simpler.

      You basically have to match stuff as it happens – so attack blocks when you’re being attacked, keys when you’re at a locked-door or chest etc. etc.

      You earn stuff for proceeding which unlocks more weapons, better magic and so on – there are many, many levels of perks and bonuses to ensure you keep exploring as it gets harder and harder.

      There’s no story at all – it’s just “hack and slash” puzzle play.

    • Meat Circus says:

      You know how Puzzle Quest is a vile, time-stealing succubus that will suck away every waking moment of your precious existence?

      This. But with better music.

    • Berious says:

      The matching is all about speed as there’s no enemy taking turns, it’s all against the clock. That means there is no “if I match this 3 then he’ll get to match skulls, better pick something else” strategy, it’s much more frantic just matching quick as you can. That’s not to say there is no strategy, for instance building up a good set of items for a score run to advance your dungeon takes forward planning – but the meat of the game is a RTS compared to PQ’s turn based strategy.

    • LintMan says:

      Puzzle quest is WAY better, IMHO. As Berious said, this is a race against the clock. Rather than trying to find the best match, I generally found myself struggling to find any match at all of the kind I needed. Frantic was the operative word, for me.

      I bought it for the iphone thinking it’d be a great time-killer while waiting in lines, etc, but it was a waste of money because I gave up on it after completing just 3 or so levels. Not fun at all for me.

  3. trjp says:

    It’s a brilliant game on a mobile device – it ranks up with Dungeon Raid, Dungeon Story, Dungelot, Puzzle Quest and the like, wonderful diversions, playable for short periods or long – endlessly consuming…

    Playing it on a PC tho – it’s a strange idea to me – each to their own I guess!?

  4. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    Played this on iPod.

    I binged, completed it fairly quickly and never felt inclined to go back.

    It’s good. I’m inclined to say it isn’t quite as good as the likes of Puzzle Quest but that may purely be on the basis that I didn’t waste as many hours on it, which may actually be in its favour!

    Thinking more seriously on it I think the reason I preferred Puzzle Quest was that it hid its grind (plus it had oodles more charm). While at first it’s refreshing to see one of these game not even bother trying to do so it does leave the “why the fuck am I playing this?” question at the forefront of your mind, especially with its tie in with “achievements” to boost your scores.

    But ultimately there’s enough thought involved in the matchings/speed required, mix of luck and skill, and choosing the right potions to use to advance your goal to make you feel like you have enough influence on increasing that number going up to keep playing to completion.

    Once you escape though, there’s absolutely no compelling reason to go back.

    I’d say it’s worth a punt for a long journey or two on a mobile but probably should be passed up on PC.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    Also as as Scot, I’m ashamed my response to this was an actual opinion and not simply the immortal words:

    “And I would match five hundred more
    Just to be the hero who matched a thousand swords
    To get out that locked door”

  6. Tei says:

    Its adictive, and it ends. Unlike other games, you finish 10M.

  7. Hoaxfish says:

    this reads like a 7,000,000 out of 10,000,000

  8. JD Ogre says:

    Definitely needs an Android port… Still, got 20 or so hours out of it on the desktop, which isn’t too bad for $5. :)

  9. sinelnic says:

    I believe failing to use ‘addictive’ when a game is ‘addictive’ is as bad as using ‘addictive’ when you mean other things such as ‘fun’, ‘engaging’, etc. Addictiveness is a real thing.

    Goog evening.

  10. Premium User Badge

    emertonom says:

    I got rather in to “gyromancer” for a few weeks a while back. This looks very, very similar, but with 1986 graphics. Not sure I should do it.

  11. Premium User Badge

    Arathain says:

    I just picked this up recently for the Pad of Eyes. As previously mentioned, it makes an excellent train game. I liked it rather than loved it- it’s just the right side of compelling, rather than compulsive, and I like its little panicky moments and just-one-more-run feeling.

    Having finished it, though, I don’t really wish to go back any time soon. I’m not actually sure that’s a bad thing, or even bad game design.

  12. Premium User Badge

    Hypocee says:

    I love Puzzle Quest and Henry Hatsworth and Zookeeper and and and…and from what I see and hear I just don’t get the love for this. How is it at all different from absolutely any launch game? Not to mention that Dodger found that scrubbing’s more optimal than play.

  13. pupsikaso says:

    No demo? Sigh… even indie games don’t have demos any more.
    Not buying before I try it.

    • Fallward says:

      @pupsikaso: You couldn’t possibly watch gameplay clips on YouTube, read the reviews, or go out on a limb and fork out the $3 for the game without having played a demo?

    • Premium User Badge

      jrodman says:

      Yeah, it seems like a big missed-boat situation. Give people the free taste so they’ll pay you for more.

      Frankly a decent game with a catchy demo hook will sell for 10$ easily, while a game that requires you to pay first will not sell that well at 3$.

      This seems like the kind of thing that could readily demo in flash or unity on the author’s website.
      —-
      Meanwhile, if the game is terrible, then giving people access to the demo would harm sales. Guess what this makes me assume about games without demos?

  14. guygodbois00 says:

    Terribly sorry for the off-topic post, but, could you Mr Meer, or perhaps Mr Rossignol, post a few words on
    Darkout?
    About 10000000: I heeded it’s advice – used an item and fought my boss. Am looking for a new job now, of course.

  15. MuscleHorse says:

    I think the Total Biscuit review hit the nail on the head. It’s fun until you realise there’s zero strategy – the best thing to do is to literally make any match you see whatsoever, as there’s the chance you’ll set off one of those cascades of matches. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for an attack tile or a resource tile when faced with a monster. I kind of regret getting this.

    • Gregg B says:

      Yeah that’s pretty much my beef with most twitch match 3 puzzlers: there comes a point where strategy goes out the window because there isn’t enough time to make well considered moves, you just have to match what you can before the shit hits the fan. The only twitch match 3 puzzler I’ve played and enjoyed that managed to avoid this quality is Meteos on the DS because it didn’t revolve around just matching stuff up as fast as possible, it was about biding your time and matching the right stuff up at the right moment, all served with a delicious risk/reward dynamic.

      • Premium User Badge

        Hypocee says:

        Meteos is great, and it’s great that it tricked you into playing it right, but it was…maybe the first game on the DS to catch flak precisely for not avoiding that. Scrub vertically, something good will happen, repeat. I believe…they fixed it in a half-sequel? Or something?

  16. bobbobob says:

    Addictive? You mean ‘addicting’, surely? This IS the internet we’re on you know.

  17. MikoSquiz says:

    I bought and briefly enjoyed it, but there’s far too many small annoying stone-in-shoe niggles, and it doesn’t take long to turn into a numbing grind. I’m not sure I could in good conscience recommend it were it free.

  18. Noburu says:

    Bought this when it came out and Steam and spent WAY too much time playing it at work and not doing actual work. Definitely worth $5 as i got quite a few hours out of it. As Alec said, it is meant to be played in small bursts (which I still do here and there) but damn if I didnt all out binge at first.

  19. boom_dk says:

    i beat this on iOS in around 7 hours time. Highly recommended!