If you’ve never played a merging game before, the screenshots for Merge Kuya Island will give you a pretty good idea who the genre is aimed at.
Netmarble – the studio behind high profile midcore titles like Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds, The Seven Deadly Sins, and Marvel Future Fight – has made a play for the younger market with Merge Kuya Island. The result is a simple, cute, and oddly addictive casual game.
Storywise, it all takes place on an idyllic tropical island inhabited by chubby little food-based creatures called Kuya, with you in the role of Spirit Keeper.
Disaster strikes as soon as you arrive on Kuya Island. Great blobs of pollution fall from the sky, covering the landscape in black gloop. Naturally, your task is to help the Kuya clear the pollution and reestablish their thriving habitat.
This entails a lot of resource management. To clear the pollution you need to extract healing essence from healing flowers. Or rather, your little Kuya friends have to extract it. All you need to do is double-tap on a flower to start the process, and then tap the healing essence to deploy it.
Naturally, flowers aren’t the only thing you’ll have to manage in Merge Kuya Island.
There are also Coins, which you spend on buying more Kuyas in order to harvest more healing essence. And there’s Lumber, which you use to construct buildings like the Bank and the Storage depot. These allow you to store more Coins and Lumber respectively.
You get Lumber from trees, as well as from Lumber Storage, while Coins come from resources like Grapes, Pomegranates, and so on. Plus, you’ll get an assortment of stuff for levelling up and completing Adventure stages.
Merge or Die
That’s the basic gist, but here’s the twist: everything merges. As long as you can get three items of the same kind together you can unite them to create a single, more powerful version.
That goes for plants, which merge into more powerful plants yielding better rewards. And it goes for trees, which become better trees yielding more Lumber. It goes for healing essence, too. The more times you merge a lump of healing essence, the more healing it provides.
Coins can be merged to create higher value coins, Lumber can be merged to create bigger piles of Lumber, and even Kuyas can be merged to create bigger, more productive Kuyas.
Three is the minimum required to pull off a merger, but if you can muster five you’ll earn even better rewards.
There’s a huge array of different items to merge in Merge Kuya Island, all with their own unique characteristics.
In fact, Merge Kuya Island is such a densely packed game that the screen can become cluttered with singles and pairs. To alleviate this you can sell items to clear the decks, and the interface allows you to instantly bring mergeable items together.
If you’re particularly into tidiness, there’s scope to create a Stardew Valley-style farm arrangement. Or you can just have a permanently messy island, like we did.
As you’d expect, Merge Kuya Island imposes a fair amount of waiting on you, and the only way to play it without going mad is in brief sessions several hours apart.
A Day in the Life
A typical session sees you first claiming any rewards, Coins, Lumber, and fruit you’ve earned in your absence. If you’ve got enough of these resources, you can start constructing storage, before heading off to complete some Adventure stages.
These are like puzzle game levels, with set goals. Each Adventure stage costs energy, and so you can only complete a handful at a time before you run out.
After that, you can return to your current island and claim the rewards you’ve just earned, as well as merging any triples or pentuples you’ve got lying around.
Finally, you can spend a bit of time on harvesting and deploying healing essence. This step comes to an end once your Kuyas run out of stamina and head off to bed.
At which point you might as well go to bed as well, because staring at a screen full of things you can’t merge is no fun.
Merge Kuya Island may look like a kids’ game, but its systems are complex and involved enough to keep players of any age engaged. And progress is slow enough that you’ll be dipping in and out for weeks to come. You can find it on Google Play right now (and the App Store).