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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Game Play: We Rule (iPhone / iPad)

I could write the shortest joke review ever right now:

Farmville. With bugs.

Get it? Bugs? Oooh, ok. So if you aren't familiar with the FarmVille game concepts, you probably aren't on Facebook. If you were, there's a good chance you know someone who has many, many status updates about a crop they grew, or a puppy they found, or a building they built, or ... something. Basically a stripped down version of the SimCity metaphor, in FarmVille styles games you grow something, harvest something, sell that something, and build stuff with the proceeds.

And that's pretty much it. It's mindless, but somewhat addictive in that consumer driven gratification kind of way.

Ngmoco has released We Rule for the iPhone and iPad. Same concept: plant, harvest, sell and build. Buildings can also be "harvested" over a period of time as they generate goods (or taxes or whatnot). Harvest, expand your land, buy better buildings, repeat. Again, it's mindless fun as you add new things and move them around.

And the price is right: We Rule is advertising based and free to download. Like many of these games you can spend real money to buy more "mojo" to make crops harvest faster, or buildings build faster or whatever. Time is very important in We Rule. You plant crops and those crops take X amount of time before they can be harvested. You can spend more time "in game" and harvest wheat every five minutes and make more money, or plant longer harvest crop which requires less attention, but gives less profit.

Up to this point, the game is rather dandy. I wouldn't strongly recommend it except that it's free and hence pretty harmless to try.

However, Ngmoco has been plagued with stability issues. Sometimes you can't log in. Sometimes the game can't get a response as to whether you can actually harvest those crops. Sometimes you'll get into your kingdom and find it in some bizarre state, like everything is shown as "harvestable" when in fact - it isn't.

And since you can't play the game offline - this can get to be something of a bother. Nearly everything the game does gets sent back to the server in some way. If you want to plant, it needs to ask the server. If you want to harvest, it needs to ask the server. If you want to build, it needs to ask the server.

When these things go wrong, you can and will lose crops (crops die after their harvest period expires). And hence, you've lost money. So the game is essentially punishing the user simply because of the way it is designed.

Which is pretty annoying. Ngmoco clearly has a hit on its hands - but only if it can clear up these issues. Mindless and somewhat entertaining is passable, especially for an ad-based game. Mindless and somewhat annoying is not.

Oh - and Ngmoco? Stop asking if I want to download your other game while I'm playing the one I'm currently am not sure works. Get one working, then maybe...

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