a group of characters from Cartoon Network games surrounding a splashy logo that says "CN Match Land"

The Stoic Beauty of Matching Three Things

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Monsters, Aliens, and Holes in the Ground

“IT’S LEMONADE!!!” The stall declares. Somewhere else along the street I sell Super Porp. I have no idea what that is except that it is NOT lemonade. I get to selling that too. I sell tacos from Taco Party. I sell fries too. I sell it all by collecting ingredients from a match three game. Cartoon Network Match Land has me. I belong to it.

There’s something special to me about a match three game. I know that I played years and years of games before Bejeweled but matching three of something feels like something I did as a child. I like threes, I like multiples of three, I just like them. I don’t remember when this started or why. I just like putting three of something together.

These kinds of games have come a long way from just matching and cascading sets of matches. After bonuses for matching more than three came bonuses for matching a lot. Eventually there was “fighting mechanics” powered by how effectively you matched. Levels, collectibles, power ups, matching games all found ways to stand out as more than just pure matching.

So I’m on my couch trying to make more lemonade and fish pizza and ramen and getting my cartoon characters to sell it to other little cartoon people. It’s great, even if we’ve come so so far from the purity of the oldest ones. And that’s okay and weirdly healthy. Unlike other simple genres that keep getting rehashed over and over match three has proven not only resilient but vibrant. While other timer bases money skimmers all seem to be made using the same mold, match three has found a few little grooves that get rejumbled every so often.

Years ago, in my memories as a hot summer night only moderately cooled by the airplane fan in my bedroom, I would lie on the floor and play Bejeweled’s endless mode. It was great. I’d just pass the time between not sleeping and not waking matching and hearing the little plinks and sounds as I ran my score up. I don’t always find sleep well and sometimes in the day I have trouble just doing one thing. Match three has always helped me with that. Still does.

Now, it’s Cartoon Network Match Land helping me fill the minutes. Weirdly, the commodification of the genre has prevented me from diving as deeply as I once did. Cartoon Network Match Land won’t ever be as deep a well as Bejeweled because it limits the numbers actions I can take. Sure, I could pay money to do more but why would I? There’s always another one of these around the corner. I just need it to hold my attention for just this moment. Plus, you can’t stay up all night when you’ve run out of little lightning bolts to play.

Eventually, I’ll bounce off of this one and onto the next one. I’ve already found a few that are slowly pulling me. But in the meantime, its lemonade.

Bloodlines, Games, Review