There are plenty of puzzle games out there that involve matching various items cluttering up your side of the screen, so you can then earn points and send junk items to an opponent in an attempt to overwhelm the enemy and win. They are fine and often fun. But, there is one title that stands apart, and that is Face and SNK’s Money Puzzle Exchanger. Recently released worldwide on the Nintendo Switch and Xbox One as part of Hamster’s ACA NeoGeo line, it is a reminder of how inventive and challenging this genre can be.
The premise of Money Puzzle Exchanger is rather odd. Players begin by picking one of two magical girl characters as their avatar, either Exchanger or Debtmiser. Their goal is to match currency in the appropriate numbers to transform them into higher value coins, until they become 500 coins you can match and eliminate. It is possible to play alone in a survival mode called Solo Play, but competitive Vs Com and 1P vs 2P modes are also available.
It is the use of coins that makes Money Puzzle Exchanger so tricky. Money appears in 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 denominations. You need to combine five 1s to make a 5, two 5s to make a 10, five 10s to make a 50 and so on. If your avatar grabs a coin, she (or he, if you are playing in a mode where you can select the other characters as avatars) is able to grab multiple coins of the same denomination. This means that keeping track of what is on screen, arranging them in the right groupings and being aware of where you shoot your coins, since that is where the new denomination will appear and you want to create combos. You also need to place the stray ER and RU power-ups in places where you can easily access them, should you find a second one to allow you to erase coins or raise their values, but be sure they are not blocking future matches.
What is interesting is, the appearance of the coins in Money Puzzle Exchanger varies depending on the version of the game you choose to play when you boot up the ACA NeoGeo release. In both the English and Japanese releases, the coins are different colors. But, the faces of the coins look different, depending on the version. The 1, 10, 100 and 500 are identical in each one, but the Japanese 5 and 50 yen coins have holes in the center, just as they do in real life. Since there is no story mode in this release, people might find it more helpful to go with the Japanese version based on its more distinctive coins. I know I have an easier time matching when two of the coins that only need to be matched in pairs have that distinctive hole.
This means you need to more strategic than you might be with other puzzles that have you matching items, like Magical Drop. The matching is a little more involved. You have to keep in mind how many coins are around and how many you need to match. It is fine to have more than two, when matching a 5 or a 50, for example. But it demands an awareness other, similar puzzle games do not. Someone who is good at keeping track of what is on the board might have an edge over someone with better reflexes, which may not always be the case in matching games. But, those who are speedier can still rely on that to pull through in a pinch.
Money Puzzle Exchanger is a thoughtful matching game. By using coins, people need to occasionally use a bit of fun math to best their opponents and keep their board clear. Yet, it is still quite simple and enjoyable, so people of any skill level can hop in and find their bearings. It is a quality game and a great inclusion in the ACA NeoGeo line.
ACA NeoGeo Money Puzzle Exchanger is immediately available for the Nintendo Switch and Xbox One.