Alien Hive arrived on the App Store a little while ago, and I wrote it up as a Daily App a little bit after that. Since then, however, it's stuck in my brain, and I find myself coming back to it again and again. The developer is based overseas and named Appxplore -- they're also the team behind two games called Sporos and Lightopus, great-looking puzzle games with plenty of polish.
But neither of those titles has caught my fancy the way Alien Hive has -- there's something about the game's relatively slow, thoughtful mix of match-three, tile-based gameplay that has me interested, and constantly trying to make more and better moves to keep from running out of energy before a new high score.
After I asked the team about the game's development, they kindly sent us some exclusive concept art to share with you. As you can see above, the game's various alien tiles have changed quite a bit as development went along -- each stage from left to right above is how the tiles level up as you match them. The bottom row above is the art they finally used in the game, and while I don't know if it's completely perfect (the second stage of evolution looks more to me like a lightbulb than a hatching embryo), you can see how it does accomplish the balance of making this look like the same growing creature, while also keeping each tile separately identifiable.
The robot art here is very interesting as well. Robots in this game are kind of like Triple Town's bears, in that they block your gameplay and reduce your options until you can match them off of the board. These robots aren't evolved -- they're basically just different takes on the model, and you can tell that the last, final version of the bots (the biggest one in the picture above), is a bit cuter and more identifable than some of their other options. Personally, I like the bots in the bottom far left, though those might be harder to see on the game's busy screen.
Finally, Appxplore shared some tips with me about their various strategies behind playing the game. The core concept of the title is to match items on the board using as few moves as possible, and you learn there are ways to do that as you play through the game. But the biggest key is to slide the whole board around rather than just moving a few tiles. If there's a match you can make across the board in just one move, it's much better to choose that than trying to manipulate a match closer to the open space that requires more moves.
I've also found, in general, that matching the lower-ranked items first is usually a good technique -- it allows you to create more of the higher-level items, which you can then match and clear off of the board for good. Power-ups are obviously important too -- you can use the "Blaster" power-up to clear one item off of the board, and you should always use that one when you can create a match, not just to clear an annoying bot out of the way. The game's "Magic Fruit" powerup will match any two items instead of three, so you should always use that one when you're sure a match of two will lead you to an even higher-quality match of three, says Appxplore.
Alien Hive's a great game -- I'm still not a big fan of the boost system that they've implemented, and I still haven't unlocked many of the game's higher creatures, which means I'm pretty convinced by now that it's impossible to do so without spending money on the game's in-app purchases. But other than that small wrinkle, I'm enjoying pushing these tiles around, trying to find patterns in Appxplore's great little character art. Alien Hive is free on the App Store for download right now.