By Thom Compton 17.04.2017
Free to play phone games, in case you live under a rock in a hole, often catch flack for their less than honest use of the word "free." Often mocked as being "free to start," the Google Play Store is absolutely overflowing with match-3 games and other "casual" titles that require some eventual investment to continue. At least if you want to do so with some degree of frequency. Yo-kai Watch: Wibble Wobble isn't going to change anyone's mind on the free part, but it's a lot of fun to play regardless.
Yo-kai Watch: Wibble Wobble mixes up RPG style combat with match-3 gameplay. The way it handles the match-3 portion is very interesting, however. Instead of just lining up Yo-kai heads to be combined, they get dropped into a gumball jar-like contraption, flopping around as players make combinations. In doing so, one giant head of that particular Yo-kai will be created. When players pop that head, it damages the Yo-kai currently being fought.
As progress is made, additional Yo-kai will be unlocked. These will be intermingled into a group of five to be put into battle to use special abilities. A Candy Crush style map will be progressed over, taking on new Yo-kai as players move along. All of this sounds pretty par for the course. If you feel that way, you'd be wrong, at least at first. The gameplay is all fairly typical, but it feels so much more natural than other mobile match-3s. The way the pieces bob up and down in the fish bowl-like cage means what is defined as touching could change after a split second.
Mixing and matching attacks, and then using abilities, is perfectly suited to the touch screen. It's a lot of fun levelling the Yo-kai, too, and the whole process falls into the "simple, but addicting" category. It's a shame that Yo-kai Watch: Wibble Wobble doesn't do more to dispel the stigma around free to play games. Things like losing lives for replaying older levels, even successfully, are a bit annoying. This would work really well for parents who want to ensure their children don't spend too much time on the game. While earlier levels reward with returning your life, eventually you will run out of lives just playing successfully. Fortunately, lives come back pretty quickly, but since lives can be paid for, it definitely feels a bit like a cash grab.
What is impressive is just how much content there is for free. There's nothing behind pay walls you can't just work harder and longer to get. There's a huge breadth of gameplay available, and thanks to a tremendous amount of Yo-kai at the game's disposal, one will be constantly surprised by how fresh the game remains. Hang-ups on microtransactions may harm other titles, by Yo-kai Watch: Wibble Wobble at least has a good deal of substance behind it. Mix that with the gorgeous chibi visuals, and the result is a solid title that manages to be simple, addictive, and really well made. Even if you've never played the title that inspired it, Yo-kai Watch: Wibble Wobble is the best match-3 game to hit phones in a really long time.
It's a free to play title, so that may want to be reconciled in the mind before jumping in. The lives system is a major drag, but if all of that can be looked past, there's a thoroughly enjoyable title here. If nothing else, if you're a fan of the original series or match-3 titles in general, this is a must-play. No ifs, ands or buts.