MatchPOP HD and Christmas Mega Swap add a little light to the holidays

Spoiler alert! MatchPOP HD and Christmas Mega Swap may not be top-flight tile matching games, but for holiday editions they will provide a few hours of fun. They’re just different enough to make them worth trying.

It’s the second week of holiday game day Friday and I realized I had to choose from a number of possible seasonal game apps because I wouldn’t have the days I needed to explore them all. On Christmas Eve, we’ll take a look at the Santa’s Village multi-game app. Today we’re going to explore MatchPOP HD and Christmas Mega Swap.

There are other games to download, but these are the ones most worth spending time with this season.

Last week I said that seasonal apps typically are put together hastily in time for a quick release and limited sales window. Both of today’s games show some indications of a first release, but they seem remarkably stable for seasonal games. Both may be worth backing up to your iPad to restore for next season as well.


Tile-matching games typically require you match three tiles in a vertical or horizontal row. The more matches you make, the better your score. MatchPOP HD behaves exactly like you would expect from a tile-matching game. In fact, other than the Christmas themed tiles and Christmasy music, there’s little to set it apart.

MatchPOP HD looks exactly like other match-three games, but with Santa.

Click image to see full size

What makes MatchPOP HD different from most tile matching games is the ability to choose your game play mode. You can select from four modes—Kill Time, Hurry Up, 100 Pops and One Minute.

Kill Time mode allows you to play as long as you want. There’s no time limit, and no goal. You simply collect points and advance through levels at your own pace and the game ends when you quit. The game will even save your progress when you quit and allow you to pick up where you left off. You can literally piss away hours when you should be wrapping presents, which isn’t likely to thrill your significant other who expects your help.

Hurry Up begins with a countdown bar. If you match tiles, the countdown time increases. If you can’t make a match, the bar counts down until your run out of time. One Minute mode and 100 Pops play even faster. In 100 Pops you have until you match 100 tiles to run up the highest score possible. In One Minute mode you have exactly one minute.

Most match-three tile games also give rewards for matching more than three tiles at once, or making multiple matches with the same play. MatchPOP HD follows that tradition with a number of bonuses, including the ability to touch and drag as many tiles as possible within a few second window and the ability to remove all tiles of a kind at once.

One reward for multiple matches is the ability to remove all tiles of a kind from the board.

Click image to see full size

MatchPOP HD plays well, even if it isn’t the best tile-matching game around. The graphics are cute and the falling show keeps you in the Christmas spirit. Unfortunately the falling snow also makes it difficult to see the hints the game provides when you can’t spot any matches on your own. And the music isn’t Christmas music, but a Christmas music faux loop than can begin to grate after a while.

There are so many public domain Christmas songs out there that I have to believe the developer didn’t want to offend anyone’s religious sensibilities with overtly Christian music. But it’s Christmas, we get it. Why not include our favorite public domain carols and let the grinches turn the music off if they don’t like it?

I’m behind the whole freedom of religion and not forcing kids to pray in schools and public places thing. The salutatorian in our high school senior class was Jewish and they expected her to lead us all in a Christian prayer at one of the assemblies. It was pretty awkward for everybody.

Christians prayed for three centuries with Roman Law threatening to execute them. They can find a way to pray by themselves in school.

I feel so persecuted in America because I’m Christian. Let me tell you, we have it so much worse than the early Christians I surprised Jesus hasn’t rescued us from the torture of American Democracy already. Especially during the holidays when the fatalities from the war on Christmas pile up too quickly to bury and the rest of us have to wait in line to be killed by gladiators or eaten by lions before Walmart’s next holiday sale.

Back to MatchPOP HD, however. Just because we don’t want to force people to listen to carols, doesn’t mean we have to push them aside for canned lounge style kind of seasonal sounding piano loops. Sooner or later we just have to let people get offended and then they can get over it.

Or not.

Christmas Mega Swap

Christmas Mega Swap may seem more rinky dink when you first play the game, but it’s actually one of the most difficult I’ve played. The game veers away from the standard match tile format by requiring players to match four tiles. The tiles don’t actually have to line up, however. As long as the four tiles in the match connect by a single side the game will accept the match.

This allows players to make matches in a number of ways; they just have to match more tiles. Extended and multiple matches also earn bonuses as they do in other games. Matches can produce double points, triple points or remove all the tiles in a single row.

Christmas Mega Swap requires players to match four or more tiles in any configuration.

Click image to see full size

The game also has three modes, although they’re far more simple to grasp—fast, faster and really fast. Several of the tile designs are devilishly similar, making it slightly harder to make quick matches. The two different Santa tiles, for example, differ only by the length of his pants.

In a head to head comparison, MatchPOP HD will probably prove to be the more entertaining and pleasing to play. It would be my preference. But Christmas Mega Swap will definitely be more of a challenge,

One of the features that sets both these games apart is full levels implementation. With many seasonal games you run up your score and the game is over. Some, such as Turkey Drop HD, don’t even let you know if you did that well or if you really sucked. Both MatchPOP HD and Christmas Mega Swap allow you to advance through levels, and, depending on which game mode you select, the challenge can be pretty difficult.

Neither will provide the long-term appeal of more fully developed games such as Treasures of Montezuma, 10 Talismans or Azkend HD. They are seasonal games, after all. But they will provide plenty of distraction during the holidays, season or whatever Bill O’Reilly and Glen Beck think we should be celebrating this year.

Too Late to Review—Xmas Plane HD and X-Mas Resort

These were posted to the app store after I finished my Christmas reviews, but you won’t have missed anything. X-Mas resort is Farmville on an island with Christmas shops. You buy more shops and pick up trash to keep tourists happy, and—most importantly—you buy bonus bucks with your very real credit card.

Why you would even play after Christmas is beyond me, but if you wanted to, I suspect your island converts to Tap Resort.

Xmas Plane HD requires you to fly around the present dropping presents down chimneys, which gets pretty boring after the second chimney.

Don’t waste your time on either.

Jenny Manytoes rates MatchPOP HD and Christmas Mega Swap

Both apps fall into a hazy gray area between categories. Ordinarily, Jenny Manytoes would take a nap. Neither game can compete with more full-featured games. But for the next week, when we’re all just a little bit happier (or pretending to be), both games will probably rate a purr.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.

Contact me at Email iPad Envy, or
Email The Hidden Grimoire.


About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
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