“Candy Crush” Review

Set Design- 10
Gameplay- 9
Show Flow- 6
Potential Viewer Ratings- 8
Play-Along Factor- 3
Host- 8
Overall Rating- 7.3

Premise: Four teams comprised of two contestants compete against each other by playing variations of the mobile game of the same name to match candies in groups of three, four or five by swapping two adjacent candies in a series of rounds. The show begins with a qualifying round with all four teams. The winning team gets a chance to select the first challenge out of a selection of four. In the challenges, teams have two minutes to make as many matches as possible. Here’s how the rest of the main game progresses:

  • Qualifying Round 2 (Remaining Three Teams)
  • 2nd Challenge
  • Qualifying Round 3 (Remaining Two Teams)
  • 3rd Challenge
  • 4th Challenge

The top two highest-scoring teams advance to the Ultimate Candy Clash. The final round is divided into two parts: one teammate must make matches on the horizontal game board to get a key to drop to the bottom of their screen and run the key over to unlock the pulley controls to start controlling their teammate’s movements to begin making matches on the vertical game board. Teams are allowed to use one booster in this round to help them through the round. Some of the boosters include Double Delicious (matches count as double value for ten seconds, Freezer Burn (freezes opponents board for ten seconds) and Miracle Match (team gets three automatic matches). The first team to reach 50 matches on the vertical wall wins $100,000.

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Review: When I first heard about CBS’s decision to green-light a game show version of Candy Crush, I was a bit shocked and taken aback by this news. Since CBS  has consistently produced strong ratings to maintain their overall top spot in daytime and primetime year in and year out, there is really no need for the network to add game shows to its evening schedule. As we slowly approached the premiere of Candy Crush and learned more about the show, including the debut date, it suddenly dawned on me.

CBS can no longer rely on Big Brother and reruns to reliably and continuously hold down the fort for the network on Sunday nights ever since ABC’s revival of Celebrity Family Feud two years ago. This appears to be the network’s attempt to regain momentum against ABC’s stout Summer Fun & Games schedule. From the looks of the premiere, it doesn’t seem like Candy Crush will be the solution to CBS’s Sunday programming problem.

Let’s start with some of the  positive aspects of the new game show:

A Unique Physical (and Slightly Strategic) Format: I honestly did not think this would be a such a physically demanding game show. I applaud the producers of doing a brilliant job of incorporating a physical twist into the show’s gameplay.  This is the one of the two key aspects that makes the show appealing to contestants and viewing audiences as opposed to just watching contestants swipe at a stationary podium for an hour.  With a game show like this that has virtually no play-along factor (aside from the live interactive mini-games avid Candy Crush fans can play on their phone), it makes it that much harder for the creators to develop a show creative enough to engage home viewers. Otherwise, you’ll wind up with a dull and uninteresting series like ABC’s revival of Battle of The Network Stars.

What truly took me by surprise was how strategic this show is. I love how the winning team in each qualifying round is assigned to play the challenge of their choice to maximize their odds at grabbing the most matches and advancing to the end game. In the first episode, we’ve seen a team choose to play a challenge based on vast vantage point one of the teammates would receive of the entire game board, while one of the other teams were forced to play a challenge with a less-advantageous close-up view of the horizontal game board. In addition to having a keen eye for finding and making matches quickly, one of the main keys to success in this show is getting the best view of game boards. We now see how the magnanimous touchscreen displays play a vital role strategically and physically in the various ways the contestants traverse their way across the game boards.

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Wide Variety of Mini-Challenges: The second key aspect is the same element that keeps game shows like Hollywood Game Night, The Price Is Right and Nickelodeon GUTS fresh which each subsequent episode. Candy Crush has excellent variety when it comes to the qualifying rounds and mini-game challenges. Last Sunday, we saw three variations of the qualifying round and four different challenges.  Some of the challenges include playing while being tethered to their teammate, crawling through red licorice vines to get to the screen, maneuvering their way across the vertical game board by using a ladder and running across an escalating scaffold to find matches. It’s looking like as the season progresses, we will have a chance to see at least one brand new challenge added into the current rotation of games.  Once again, kudos to the producers for their creativity.

Excellent Set Design: The Candy Crush arena is vividly and colorfully designed as if it was taking place inside the fictional kingdom. Allowing members of the audience to view the show from the upper levels on the outskirts of the set is a nice touch. This intangible feature gives the set a slight feel of the inside of a Coliseum. It reminds me of when producers allowed audience members to sit in the second floor in the “mall” on Shop ’Til You Drop. As I had stated earlier, the huge, world record-breaking virtual game boards are the ideal size for a physical game show like Candy Crush. In addition to the size of the displays, the set is also large enough for the contestants to play the panoply of challenges the show has created.

Play-Along At Home (To An Extent): In today’s smartphone-savvy society, there are more and more game shows that utilize this interactive feature nowadays by allowing viewers to face the same live questions or challenges as the contestants on the broadcast. The interactive game mode is a good way to keep viewers tuned while avid fans of the mobile app rack up rewards.

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Here are the main issues I have with the show:

Too Long: As lively and entertaining this show is, Candy Crush would work better as a half-hour format. Watching teams play the same game with slight tweaks can get tiresome and tedious to watch after the third qualifying game. The format could be reduced to having three teams face one qualifying round, having the winner select the challenges for themselves and their opponents to face and the top two scoring teams advance to the end game.

Better As A Kids/Family Format: Candy Crush would also be more appealing and fun if they were to shift the contestant demographic to a kids or a family format. Given how younger users enjoy the app just as much as adults do, it makes since to create a kid-friendly version of this show and adjust the challenges as needed to accommodate the kids. Yesterday’s family episode was a prime example why that format would be more entertaining than the current default adults only format. There’s a reason why an adult version of Double Dare never came to fruition.

Grand Prize: While $100,000 is an incredible top prize, the show could have been more creative with the grand prize. The show could have offered the winners to choose one of many mystery treasure chests either displayed on the vertical wall or as props rolled out on the stage and win a grand prize package based on the selection. It sounds like a more fun-filled option than a flat cash figure for this show.

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Overall, the production crew did a fantastic job of bringing Candy Crush to life as a live action game show. There is an incredible variety in the ways the show has contestants match candies. The physical element is the X Factor that makes the game more exciting, interesting and competitive, especially when it comes to the Ultimate Candy Clash end game. Mario Lopez, who is no stranger in the wide world of game shows, is a good host for the show and does a decent job of calling the play-by-play action. It’s not easy to live commentate events where there is so much action happening simultaneously, such as the qualifying rounds where you have to quickly keep up with the progress of three and four teams at one time. Candy Crush is a cool combination of a physical stunt game show and a fun and sometimes addicting mobile game. Unfortunately, I doubt this show will stick around after this season. I’m calling a one-and-done for Candy Crush.

Stay tuned for new episodes of Candy Crush every Sunday at 8:00pm on CBS!
Screenshots taken from episodes of Candy Crush.

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