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It’s a growing trend within the iOS gaming community to allow for the use of in-app purchases in games. In exchange for real money, these games give players access to enhancements within the game, from collectibles and vanity items such as clothing or armor to unlocking complete levels.
There’s a sweet balance to be stricken here; offering games for free and allowing for purchases to aid in the gameplay are fairly common, while others take on the more risky practice of charging for the game on top of additional purchases.For some, this works, offering multiple gameplay options to players while never hindering actual gameplay in the process in exchange for money.
And for others, this turns into a conniving and convenient way to garner money, looking an awful lot like a rip off.
Puzzle Craft is the latter.
A medieval kingdom-building game, puzzle craft tasks players with creating and managing a city, starting as a settlement with a handful of cottages and allowing them to build into elaborate courts. You’ll hire peasants, build multiple buildings, and manage your city through taxes and careful strategy for maximum resource gathering.
Vital resources such as wood, grain, and metal are used to build buildings and hire workers to help grow your metropolis and are gathered through elaborate and cleverly-designed tile matching puzzles. Which makes for an interesting convention and a strong departure from the typical “wait-and-gather” style of resource collection typical to these types of games.
But it all falls apart from there. After the brief and shallow tutorial, you’re left with a handful of gold, enough to help you through a few rounds of mining and farming (yeah, you have to pay the game to do that). An insane amount of resources must be gathered before you see any jump in your supply numbers, and you’ll be forced to forge tools in order to reap maximum benefit from the puzzles, removing any and all strategy that might be necessary for good puzzle solving, and forces you to use up hard-earned and valuable resources to create.
Wait times between gathering the resources and money your citizens yield can often be ridiculous, preventing this game from becoming a solid, enjoyable sit-down-and-play game. I found myself locked out from any additional incoming gold for two hours while I reviewed this, and quickly depleted my gold to the point where I couldn’t farm or mine, and as a result, couldn’t build anything.
Of course, if I wanted, I could spend additional money on top of the $.99 I already paid for extra gold that would give me resources and unlock things instantly, essentially breaking the game and preventing me from making any real progress without reaching into my bank account.
Which, again, is fine if the game is free. But it’s not. Despite the fact it costs as much as chicken nuggets at Wendy’s (which I’d take a million of over playing this again. And I’m a health nut.), I’m still finding myself getting scammed for money after paying full price for an app.
And yes, there are ways to slightly get around it; you can sell surplus resources in the game to get a little extra gold, but the monetary yield is not enough to propel you forward and make any real headway in the game’s progression.
This game would have been an 8. It’s clever, it’s promising, and it’s a very laid-back and casual approach to strategy that could potentially be very entertaining. But it’s ruined by the dangerous in-app-purchase model it’s adopted, flirting with the line of becoming a pay-to-win game that so many claim to steer clear of. Unfortunately, what little gameplay you do get to experience without cracking open your wallet wasn’t enough to save this rip off of a game. If you see it on the app store, keep on scrolling. Unless you enjoy pumping money into a game like an old school arcade machine. In that case, click away.