How Harry Potter Puzzles & Spells redefined Match 3 level design and engagement

Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells is a match 3 game from Zynga which takes players through a magical journey encountering challenging puzzles, collecting friendly creatures and spells. A typical match 3 game but holds tons of features and interesting twists on the levels.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published by Saravanan S. Saravanan spends most of his time with games and is a Game Designer at EA, before that driving the design for massive Facebook midcore title Kingdoms of Camelot at PopReach.

With so many match 3 games in the market Harry Potter: Puzzles and Spells stands out in the crowd mainly for redefining the core engagement: Playing the levels.

In the last few years, match 3 games witnessed tons of innovations in players experience, evolution in meta and some major shifts in players behaviors and requirements. Many successful match 3 games embedded narratives, building/scape and hyper competitive events to engage the players with core loop. But one thing always remained constant: Level design and Mechanics. Almost all the popular titles have mechanics and puzzles similar to the original candy crush but with different creative approaches.

Most of the developers focused innovations outside the core loop to drive the engagement and monetize from players. Some of the popular layers are:

Innovations outside the core loop to drive engagement in mobile games
Successful Player engagement models

How Harry Potter: Puzzle and Spells redesigned it?

Redefining core gameplay in a match 3 level


Spells are the special mechanics which players can invoke within the level to clear the objectives or help move forward. Once the particular number of white gems are collected, players will be able to cast a spell on the board. Casting Spells comes in different types: objectives, rewards, boosters etc.

Different types of Spells in Harry Potter Puzzles and Spells
Different types of Spells

As Level Objectives

In some of the levels the objectives are hidden beneath some elements and casting a spell reveals them. Now players will play further on the updated board with new challenges and strategies. In this example, casting Wingardium Leviosa lifts the feathers and the objectives are revealed.

Hidden objects feature in HP Puzzles and Spells
WINGARDIUM LEVIOSA to left the feathers to reveal objectives

The updated board delivers interesting feedback to the players and new challenges arise as they progress. This new layer on the match 3 level is very refreshing and a lot more engaging than the typical match 3 actions and loops.

As Rewards

This is an optional spell that can be cast to acquire the treasure box (coins) from the board and the acquired coins will be rewarded only upon completing the level. Players now will have a lot more reasons to buy the extra moves upon losing the level.

Rewards in Puzzles and Spells
Reward Spells to acquire coins from the board

As Boosters

Another optional spell, but helps players by clearing a few obstacles/blockers. As you can see below, casting the INCENDIO to ignite the fireworks clears few blockers on the board.

Boosters to clear obstacles in Harry Potter Puzzles and Spells
Booster spell to clear potential obstacles

Dynamic Decision making in a level

The interesting part of Harry Potter: Puzzles and Spells is, that the players can choose between multiple spells every time when the white orbs are filled. This dynamic decision while playing a level brings in a whole new experience and refinement in a match 3 level.

Casting one spell over the other, alters the level difficulty and progression dynamically. Upon casting, the game provides interesting feedback to the players with the updated board and drives deeper engagement until the next spell.

Dynamic decision to update the board and progress in Harry Potter Puzzles and Spells
Dynamic Decision to update the board and progress

Special gems

Special gems are predefined and reside inside the board when the level starts. Players get potential aid from these gems to progress further in the level or to even clear the objectives. By triggering a type of special gems, players receive extra moves or some objectives gets collected.

Special gems in Puzzles and Spells
Dropping down this gem collects few objectives

These special gems add another layer of strategy and interesting twists especially to the hard levels in Puzzles and Spells. For example, towards the last few moves players can dynamically decide whether to clear the objective with few more matches or trigger these special gems in order to complete the level.

Special gems in HP P&S
Compass gems provides extra moves to the level

With multiple special gems the game adds a lot more variety and interesting strategy in the levels as we progress.

More Rewards, More Engagement

Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells rewards players immensely at early game to experience the fullest of it. Appealing Daily rewards, Lives refill for Scene completion are some of the primary components that affect the players engagement and keep the session length extended. Each session in the game is hugely rewarding and motivating.

Game rewards to engage players in HP Puzzles and Spells
Rewards, Rewards and Rewards everywhere

With interesting mechanics like Spells, Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells provides a whole new experience for match 3 players and provides more complex yet enjoyable puzzles. Periodic meaningful rewards keeps the players highly engaged and a prolonged session which is very critical for a match 3 game.

Key takeaways

  • Redefined the match 3 level gameplay experience
  • With spells the game delivers whole new puzzle experience on match 3 games
  • Dynamic decision between spells provides players with more challenging feedback and drives deep engagement within the level
  • Special gems adds another interesting strategy and twists to the board
  • More meaningful rewards creates rewarding and prolonged sessions

For more posts from Saravanan head on to his medium page

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