This year's black Friday digital game sale is huge and includes several newer titles. Here are a few that are worth checking out.
The Croods Review: Prehistoric Farmville Is Good?
The Croods is a film that has been released in the last week. It follows a family of neanderthals racing to escape the “end of the world”. While the film brings in the same audience as Ice Age did for Dreamworks before, the company drafted in Angry Birds developer, Rovio, in an attempt to crack the mobile audience. Boy have they succeeded.
First off, do not expect any deep storyline or character development. The characters have a name and speak in grunts accompanied by subtitles. But this is not a typical by the books film tie-in. This game assumes you know or do not care for the characters that you are seeing and focuses on the building of a prehistoric farm. Grug, the father in the film, has an idea called “hunt and gather” which very simply sums up the aim of this game.
To achieve the hunting part of the game, you are tasked with building up enough money and resources to build traps for the various kinds of animals on offer. Once these well designed traps are built, animals will begin to flock around it and allow you to catch them. Upgrading the traps with money allows you to have a greater chance of capturing the first or second time. If the capturing of the animal is not successful, Grug drops a cage on himself and gets annoyed which isn’t a problem… the first time. If your attempts at capturing the animals fail numerous times, this mechanic becomes tiresome and, without any money to spend on upgrading, does start to grate on your patience. After the animal has been caught, the game makes you “tame them” using the animal’s preferred food. While being tamed, you build a home and stock up on the food for it. Once a sufficient number of animals are caught you can start with the “gather” side of the game.
This consists of making sure your animals have enough food to keep them producing the precious materials that are needed to feed other types of animals or to build new features which evolve the current animal’s homes, your own home (which stores your raw materials) or to access a new area which includes new animals. These also allow you to create soup which upgrades each individual animal’s abilities. Missions are given by another imaginatively named character, Gran (seriously), who pushes you along and after each set of missions upgrades your level. It may sound mundane but the game is seriously addictive and sufficiently rewards you for each of your actions.
If you cannot wait for the animals to finish creating things or for the homes to build / upgrade, you can purchase one of the many microtransaction options available. There are gems (shortcuts to speed the game up) and coins in different sized packages in varying price from $4.99 to $59.99. These become necessary at some point to upgrade one of the crucial elements of the game, the Berry Bush, and to get additional Bear Owls (an animal that mines berries for coins).
The graphics, while basic, are suitable for this kind of game. Essentially 2D models that move round the map, the characters and animals are not exactly what you would call advanced, but if you think of it as a prehistoric set game, the basic approach seems perfect. The charm and ingenuity of the animal design is where this game shines however. Animals such as the Girelephant and the Albatroceros are examples of how the animals are inventively created. They become tired-looking when out of food and roam around their homes while creating your materials.
The sound design is similarly basic. Clicking on the characters rewards you with basic grunts or grumblings, presumably to save on the cost of hiring Mr. Nicholas Cage and Ms. Emma Stone to voice their characters Grug and Eep respectively, while clicking on animals gives you various different noises. If you choose to have your media volume up for longer than five minutes, you will notice a soundtrack of basic and repetitive drum, xylophone and bird noises over and over until you turn it off.
A last gripe with the game is its dependence on an internet connection at all times, even when you don’t sign into Rovio’s own service. It prevents people like me who do not have much internet allowance on their smartphones from playing out and about, limiting the amount of time people can spend with the game. Despite this, the game still manages to send you constant notifications with the mobile data off.
The game is basic in its premise and its execution but somehow makes you keep crawling back for more, no matter how hard you try to stay away. I have invested a fair amount of time in the game and with the addition of the friend feature allowing you to visit other people’s land will only serve to make me return to it more.