Matching With Friends Free (Free) by Zynga is another game in the “With Friends” series. Think of Words with Friends, except with Tetris.
Now, I usually don’t pay much attention to Zynga games, to be honest. However, when I saw Matching with Friends, I thought that it looked different, and a nice change from the rest of the Zynga games. So of course, I decided to give it a try. Turns out it’s not bad, and a great addition for puzzle fans.
Just like the rest of the With Friends games, you can either log in using a Zynga account or with Facebook — choose the lesser of two evils. The game will even detect if you have another Zynga game on your device, and will ask you if you want to use the same account. If you use your Zynga account, you are able to link your Facebook to it. I am not sure if the same can be done with a Facebook login, though. The way that Zynga handles player accounts and invites from others can be a bit of a hassle, and I wish they would improve it at some point.
Now, on to the game itself. You’ll be walked through the basics of the game with a short tutorial. After that, you’re on your own. You can easily create a new game with your Facebook friends, a random opponent, a specific user, or from your contact list. Players can have up to 20 simultaneous games going at once, so you’ll be busy for a while.
Each game will start out with a few colored tiles in the center of the game board. Each player gets three game pieces that consist of three colored tiles. You can move your three pieces to anywhere on the game board to make a match of at least three like-colored tiles. Tapping on the center tile will rotate the piece so that it will fit accordingly. If you need better tiles to make a match, you can swap out your pieces.
Of course, if it were just that to the game, then it would be too easy. Just like Words with Friends, there are special spots on the board that will give you point bonuses (2X and 3X), and star tiles, which are basically wildcards, to match as well. You can also use bombs (two of the basic ones are provided each game) to clear up space for matches. There are three other bomb types, though you will have to purchase them with coins. Coins get replenished after you complete a game.
The part that makes Matching with Friends extremely challenging is that you only have 11 turns in each game — the player that gets more points during those turns will win the game.
Like the rest of the Zynga games, you are able to chat with your opponent in-game. If you enable push notifications, you’ll be alerted when you get a message or when it’s your turn to make a move. Unfortunately, there is no Game Center integration.
I only managed to pick up the free version of the game, which includes ads after each turn you take. If you would rather not be bothered with the ads, you can opt for the $2.99 ad-free version, though it seems that's the only advantage here — you won't get bonus coins or anything (from what I can tell). I believe that the free version should be good enough for most, if not everyone.
This is becoming one of my favorite new social games, and I highly recommend you give it a try, especially if you love puzzle games already. It’s a welcome and fun challenge on your iPhone. Hopefully an iPad version will be released soon.