In the lead-up to the premiere of Candy Crush — a new CBS game show based on the popular mobile game Candy Crush Saga and hosted by Mario Lopez — PEOPLE senior writer Patrick Gomez and his fiancé Matt DeGroot attempted one of the show’s competitions.
I play a lot of Candy Crush Saga. Like, way too much of it.
My obsession with the addictive mobile game began during a family vacation in 2013. For the past 17 summers, my family has headed out to the same spot in middle-of-nowhere West Texas for a week of swimming and eating and, well, that’s about it. The spring-fed pool at Balmorhea State Park and the historical artifacts at nearby Fort Davis are lovely, but there’s not a whole lot else to do.
I’d brought a book to read on the vacation but just before I hopped on my flight to meet my family in my home state, a friend suggested I check out this new game that everyone was talking about. By the time I landed back in L.A. seven days later, I’d already beat over 100 Candy Crush levels and convinced my then-boyfriend Matt to download the game as well.
Flash forward four years and Matt is now my fiancé — but we’re still obsessed with Candy Crush. We love spending nights at home watching shows like Survivor, Amazing Race and Big Brother, but the real competition is happening on the couch. “Sugar Crush!” Matt will yell triumphantly when he beats a level. He’s currently on level 1758 — an impressive feat, to be sure — but it irks him to no end that I’m on level 1909 and gaining momentum.
All this is to say, Candy Crush is a big part of our lives. So when I was offered the opportunity to test out one of the games designed for the new CBS game show based on our favorite app, I knew there was no one else I wanted as my partner.
We’d had countless of hours of practice on our phones but nothing really could have prepared us for the challenge we walked into on the show’s media day.
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Swiping tiny candies across my phone screen so they line up with candies of the same color requires little physical effort aside from moving my thumb centimeters left to right. But on the set of the new game show Matt and I were suddenly being rigged into harnesses I would normally associate with things like skydiving.
“You want it to be as tight as possible,” one of the crew members told us as we were being strapped in like we were 19th-century women being corseted. “Last thing you want is to fall out!”
Once we were rigged up, host Mario Lopez explained that we would be basically playing a giant version of the mobile game. We had to match as many candies as we could and got extra time put on the clock for every match we made that included more than three candies.
We’d watched other pairs compete earlier in the day with very little success, so we weren’t sure how we would do. As we were lifted into the air, Matt and I gave each other a look as if to say, “Here goes nothing … and I’ll judge you if you’re the weak link.”
Luckily, we found a groove pretty easily. As the person at the lower end of the game board, I knew any match I made would create a waterfall effect that would change the position of Matt’s pieces higher up on the board. With that in mind, I made sure to wait until he made a match before going in for my move.
If one of us was already swiping, the other’s actions would not be registered by the touch screen. This made timing our moves essential since we only had a few seconds to swipe pieces before we were lifted up into the air again.
In the end, we had what Mario said was the high score of the day. It was only a few minutes of competition but I honestly felt so accomplished achieving that goal — and it was all the more sweet because I got to do with the man I’m going to marry in just a few months.
I worried that playing Candy Crush on such an epic scale would ruin the mobile game for us, but I should have known better. I’d explain that idea more but level 1909 isn’t going to beat itself ….
Candy Crush premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.