Price: Free Score: 6/10 Category: Games
Robinson by Pixonic, is an adorable island sim for Android, promising escapist casual play and delivering forced friends and forced paid upgrades. The player is a castaway on a deserted, tropical island, and must clear land, build tiki huts, plant pineapples.
Appealing storyline missions refer to a treasure map, a ruined temple and all kinds of tropical adventures, but without premium currency and friend spamming, these cannot be accessed.
A recent talk by Kixeye at the Flash Gaming Summit discussed how FarmVille successfully used player’s expectations of farming and gardening for a waiting-and-harvesting game mechanic. Players expect waiting, watering and wilting with crops, so it lends itself well to appointment-style gaming. With that in mind, it’s particularly awkward to make a castaway survival story into a social game. The exciting storylines of building a shelter and surviving alone in the elements simply don’t mesh with forced daily visits to friends’ islands.
The art in this Android game is really what kept me playing. I liked putting baby chicks around my hut, putting monkeys under a coconut tree, and building totem poles by huts. The jungle illustrations, with dark green palm fronds, pink orchids, and blue and yellow bird-of-paradise flowers, was just great and kept me playing even after I realized that any further progression would require “optional” purchases.
Good freemium games offer ways to speed up one’s progress with premium currency, without actually stopping all progress and gameplay without it. Players should feel like they’re skipping some tedium, or that they’re splurging on an upgrade, or that they’re getting a deal on a limited-time offer. In Robinson, though, players quickly a hit a point at which no further progress is possible. For example, players need to complete a workshop to get an axe, but completing the workshop requires boards, which are gained by cutting down trees… with an axe. Players can, of course, pay totems, the game’s premium currency, to get around this. (The storyline and game art is solid, and I would have happily paid, say, $4.99 to play an island survival sim without getting hit up for totems every few minutes.)
The survival storyline is engaging, but game’s text could be improved. Some of the descriptions are quite awkward, and the help text is rarely helpful. One quest “Let’s Have More Space” asks the player to improve his hut, and tells the player in so many words to click on the hut and select improve. Unfortunately, players will look in vain for the improve button, it’s furnish and ornament that’ll finish this mission. (And it’ll cost premium currency, too, of course.)
I also encountered very many, very trivial bugs playing Robinson. When I broke down and connected to Facebook to look for friends playing, the connection didn’t work. The game often froze in while in redecorating mode. When I traded in amulets for totems, I paid in for 5 totems, and was credited with one. A quick Google of the game’s name shows many player complaints about the previous bugs in the Android game. I often had to extra click around the island when my first touch didn’t take, but when one clicks to buy more energy, the food is debited but no confirmation appears and the purchase screen doesn’t go away. Extra clicking, as one often does when a game glitches, continues spending all the food.
Overall, the sweet animations and island survival theme in this Android title are delightful, but don’t quite make up for the flaws in game play and balancing.