Once upon a time, a little mobile game called Threes! came out and was so fun and original that other developers couldn't help but steal the game's ideas and put them into their own games. Even though it's been a few years since these knockoffs came flooding in, games like BoneSwiper are coming out and trying to apply this successful title's mechanics in new ways. BoneSwiper reimagines the tile-combining of Threes! as a dungeon-crawler. Although its influences are extremely clear, BoneSwiper folds in a slew of combat mechanics that make it feel like more than a derivative puzzle game.
If you've ever played Threes! before, BoneSwiper's gameplay should be incredibly familiar to you. The game's action is presented on a 4x4 grid which is prefilled with a few tiles, and you manipulate these tiles by swiping up, down, left, or right on the screen to make all tiles simultaneously shift in that specified direction.
As a game that is also a dungeon-crawler, BoneSwiper features tiles that represent your hero, the enemies he must fight, and equipment for your quest, namely food, armor, and weaponry. Whenever you slide your hero in the direction of items, he automatically picks it up, and if he slides into an enemy both tiles exchange attacks. The trick to BoneSwiper is that combining like items increases their effectiveness, and enemies on screen can also pick up items. This makes for a game where you need to carefully combine items while also avoiding equipping your enemies with powerful loot.
An added twist to BoneSwiper's gameplay is that your hero and enemies aren't always active while you are playing. The game features a day/night cycle, where your hero and your skeletal foes are "asleep" during the day and wake up to fight at night. It's a strange idea, but it's one that allows a reprieve from combat to focus on building item combos.
Another peculiarity of this system is that the night cycle lasts a specific number of turns, while daytime only disappears once you've filled the board with items. Overall it's this system that really helps BoneSwiper feel different from Threes!. Having a playing board that goes through multiple phases to create a combat system really makes the game feel much more like a roguelike than a simple puzzle game clone.
BoneSwiper may feel pretty unique when playing it, but that certainly isn't reflected in the game's visuals. The entire game uses a pretty dark and boring color pallette, which keeps BoneSwiper from feeling like it has much of a personality.
BoneSwiper is also occasionally frustrating to play because-although it borrows a lot of concepts from Threes!-there are some missing features that should probably come standard in sliding puzzle games these days. Specifically, it would be nice if BoneSwiper allowed you to "test swipe" by moving your finger across the screen without lifting. Instead, the moment you pick a direction, BoneSwiper fully commits you to that move and there's nothing you can do to take it back. It's not a huge thing, but it can be occasionally annoying.
The bottom line
BoneSwiper manages to avoid simply being a Threes! clone, mostly thanks to its combat design. Other than that, the rest of the game is kind of stark and generic-looking. If you can get past the bland visuals though, BoneSwiper is a reasonably fun puzzly roguelike.