Price: $3 (sometimes on sale for $1)
I've had Shining Core on my device for a while now, and I keep coming back and playing a bit further to see if it ever gets interesting.
Short version: it doesn't.
Shining Core attempts to do the whole fusion of a match-3 game and with RPG elements thing. If a little something called Puzzle Quest never existed, then Shining Core might have been a novel and diverting little game.
As it is, however, Puzzle Quest does exist on multiple platforms, and Puzzle Quest 2 just made it to iOS last month. And although I haven't checked all my math, Shining Core is approximately 100 times less entertaining than Puzzle Quest. It's not a bad game at all. It just never really does much of interest with its concept.
The screen layout is a bit cramped, but workable. A band along the top displays the two characters who are fighting. One is always you, and the other is drawn a fairly limited selection of bland monster types.
The bottom two-thirds of the screen is comprised of the tepid match-3 interface that drives the combat. There are tiles for attack, defense, spell points, powers, magic, and skill. Get three or more in a row, and you launch that attack. The clock is always ticking, so if you don't find a match fast enough, your opponent may be able to land an extra hit.
Levels are made, gold is earned, potions are bought, and monsters are killed. You fight a line of monsters, finish with a big boss, and then move on to a new piece of turf. The execution of the gameplay is all perfectly fine, but it just feels rote and colorless. I know Puzzle Quest 2 costs a whopping $10 (!), which is admittedly high for an app. Sure, it costs almost 67% more than Shining Core, yet it offers about 500% more entertainment value. Just do the math.