Crystal Cove features a super minimal 2D design that keeps the game simple yet elegant at the same time. The background features a clear illustration of what looks like a cove (hence the name), but it’s not too distracting to take away from the foreground, which is where all the matching is done. The triangular game pieces pop out a bit with pseudo-3D, thanks to the three shades of one color. The color palette is basic with just three soft pastel hues, but I find it soothing and it goes well with the cove theme. There’s also a color blind mode, where each color is represented by dots, so no one is left out. Animations are smooth and fluid, so I had no issues with lag or choppy frame rates on my iPhone 8 Plus. The ambient techno-like soundtrack is fairly calming, and helps you think about the moves you’re making. The developer did an excellent job here with Crystal Cove’s visual and audio design, as it’s an overall tranquil experience.
Unlike most match-three games, Crystal Cove doesn’t have levels. Instead, it gives players an endless escapade of relaxing block matching. You play until you’re surrounded and have no more options except to restart and try again to beat your high score. While it doesn’t sound like a lot, the game is surprisingly full of depth and strategy’s involved, so you must think about each move if you want to do well.
At the start of each game, you have a colored triangle in the center of the board, which can fit a certain number of triangles. Along the top of the screen is a block that tells you the next three colors of triangles that will appear once you move. When you swipe left, right, up, or down to move, it places the next triangle in that spot. A light silhouette of adjacent triangles that you can move into get highlighted on the board, in case you don’t know where to go.
As you match like-colored triangles in clusters of at least three or more (they must also be adjacent to each other), you’ll fill up the colored crystals at the bottom. Once these are full, you can drag them to a triangle and change it to that color. They’re useful for getting out of a jam, but you should use them often since they refill as you make matches.
If you make a mistake, you can undo your last move with the rewind button. Once you are surrounded with no where left to go, the game asks if you want to use a power-up crystal. Otherwise, you’ll have to restart and try again.
Your final score in a round is determined by the number of matches you’ve made, obviously. However, there are other bonuses to earning points, such as clearing the board, getting consecutive matches and earning multipliers. Again, it looks like a simple game on the surface, but it requires thinking and planning if you want to nab the best score possible.
As you accrue points, they double as in-game money. You can spend these points in the shop for various skins with new designs. They are purely cosmetic, though, as they don’t affect the gameplay in any way.