Arc System Works may be best known for its hardcore 2D fighters, like Guilty Gear and BlazBlue, but it's also got a softer side, publishing several smaller titles like Shephy and New Frontier Days on the Switch eShop. The latest of these is Boost Beast, an animal-themed match-three puzzler from Yoshi's New Island and Hey! Pikmin developer Arzest. It’s a delightfully cheery game with fun mechanics, and though it has a few balance issues it’s still well worth playing for puzzle fans.

Boost Beast is set in an upbeat post-apocalyptic world where all of human kind has been turned into zombies. Their only hope? Adorable combat-trained animals who are ready to risk it all to save them. Your job is to help these titular Beasts by matching three or more of their tiles together, and freeing them for battle.

The puzzle gameplay of Boost Beast reminded us quite a bit of Pokémon Shuffle: it’s a match-three game, with different coloured animal tiles filling up grids of different sizes and shapes, and using a cursor (or your finger, if you’re playing in handheld mode), you can swap a single tile with an adjacent one in any cardinal direction. Match three animals of the same colour and they’ll disappear from the board, making the same number of animals appear above to attack. Zombies march from right to left towards your animal commander, and if they make it all the way left it’s Game Over, so keeping up a steady stream of fuzzy foot soldiers is key — if you do manage to match enough to last through the last zombie wave, you’ll clear the stage and move ahead in the lengthy linear campaign of 200+ levels.

So far, that’s pretty much par for the match-three course, but Boost Beast layers on some additional gameplay mechanics that make things a bit more interesting. First, the animal colours don’t just matter when making matches — some zombies can only be damaged by matching animals of certain colours. If a pink zombie horde is marching towards your base, for instance, you can clear all the yellow or green tiles you like, but you won’t actually repel them unless you can rally up some pink animals to fight. It feels similar to Pokémon Shuffle’s type-based mechanics, and it’s similarly fun here — it plays a big part in puzzle strategy, and encourages looking a move or two ahead for convenient colour combos.

Besides matching the right colours, it also pays to match more than three animals at once; in addition to sending more soldiers to the top of the screen, better matches also leave different types of ‘bomb’ pieces on the board, all of which can help quite a bit. Matching four tiles will make a ‘cross bomb’, for instance, which clears all blocks outward in four directions. Matching five animals in an ‘L’ shape results in a ‘big bomb’, which can clear all tiles in a large radius, while matching five tiles in a straight line gives perhaps the best bomb of all — a ‘colour bomb’, which clears all animals of the currently needed colour on the board. These bombs are powerful, but they’re also balanced out by a nice risk/reward mechanic — if you can leave them until the end instead of using them right away, they’ll ‘pop’ after you’ve finished the stage, often leading to long chain reactions of combos, clears, and more bombs in turn. These ‘overkill’ cycles keep adding to your score even after the last zombie’s down, and are often the best way to get the highest mark of three stars on a stage — in addition to being incredibly satisfying to watch. 

Finally, Boost Beast has many of the ‘obstacles’ common in match-three puzzlers, like garbage blocks which stay put on the board until you make a certain number of adjacent matches, or cages which hold animals in place until you clear them. These are introduced gradually as the campaign rolls on, and that pacing — along with plenty of different enemy patterns, boss battles, and grid shapes — helps keep things continually engaging as it goes. 

That said, this is still a game much more suited to short bursts than marathon sessions, and while we enjoyed our time with it, Boost Beast has its issues — particularly with balance. The colour system, for instance, is an excellent idea, and we like how it works most of the time, but at times it feels overly dependent on the luck of the draw — if you can’t find any yellow pieces to match when you need them, it could mean failing the stage right there; and having to restart a level five, eight, or ten times because of dumb luck instead of lack of skill gets old quickly.

Similarly, the ‘Boost Monster’ assists — which let you select a free bomb of each type or a full board shuffle — feel weirdly balanced. You can use them at any time during a stage, and then they ‘regenerate’ slowly over time, so that if you call on one it might be ready again four or five stages later. It’s a clear holdover from the game’s first incarnation as a free-to-play mobile title, and it just doesn’t make any sense here; nothing else about the game is gated by time, and without any option to speed up their recovery, it feels like a randomly accessible overpowered cheat code.

A smaller but still salient issue has to do with the gridded containers which hold the animal tiles. Boost Beast’s vary quite a bit beyond the normal square shape, which we appreciate — diagonals, multiple boxes, and varying widths all make each level feel much more distinct than they otherwise would, and the fact that making matches is more or less difficult on certain parts of the board adds a fun bit of strategy. The problem comes from the fact that in the more interesting, less rectangular of these shapes, gravity doesn’t work exactly how we’d expect it to — animals don’t always drop straight down to take the places of recently cleared tiles; rather, they move to fill in gaps using paths transparent to the game but not always to the player. That in turn makes it much trickier to set up combos or potential matches deliberately, and on already difficult levels it can definitely frustrate. 

Luckily, Boost Beast’s endlessly cheerful presentation makes those moments a lot easier to swallow. The art style is clean, crisp, and colourful, with cute backgrounds and bright borders framing the matching action. The music is similarly sunny, with a particularly whistleable main theme, though the fact that it doesn’t quite loop cleanly distracts every minute or so. Controls — both button-based and touchscreen — work well, and though the interface is clearly more mobile- than console-inspired, the only option we missed was the lack of an easy ‘restart stage’ option.

Conclusion

Boost Beast is a wholly serviceable match-three game with a cute theme, fun mechanics, and plenty of content to keep you entertained. It has a few notable balance issues — including an overemphasis on luck and some puzzling vestiges of its free-to-play origins — but it’s still a good time for fans of the genre, and a worthwhile addition to the Switch’s growing puzzle library.