Brent A. Hopkins
In Casual Commitments, we explore the ups and downs of casual gaming.
Ah, PC gaming… how I have missed you.
To start, I describe myself as a gamer through and through. One of my first memories is sitting in my living room with my older brother and sister playing the original Nintendo. I remember we were playing two games in particular that day. Double Dribble (White Team: LA vs. Green Team: NY by Konami) and the classic Super Mario Brothers. That being said, I have grown old and bitter. I turned into a gamer hipster. Like most people who deem themselves purist of something I had a pretty lengthy phase where I hated casual games.
Things suddenly changed when I wanted to game and I was actually getting slammed with work and graduate classes. My stress relief has always been 1) gaming 2) shopping or 3) reading and I couldn’t sit and play an RPG for 10 hours or really anything for a lengthy period of time so I turned to Candy Crush. This game kept me from slowly ending all of my friendships with my old man grumpiness and I had to concede the casual market wasn’t so bad.
Then came the winter of 2013 and I was even busier with graduate school, my sister visiting me in Korea, looking for a new job, and work. So I turned on my computer, loaded up Steam, and bought between 60 and 80 games during the winter sale. I am not a man of moderation, by the way. Quite a few of the games were purchased with the intent of being used on my new tablet, the Microsoft Surface 2 Pro, and these two games have gotten the most play by far.
I picked this game up for around $2.50 on Steam with no actual knowledge of the game other than, “Dawww, look at the cute bears” and “Hey! The little citizens look like Mii avatars.” This was enough for me to install the game and I would say that is good advertising on developer SpryFox’s part. The game is an odd combination of space management, city design, and puzzle solving which you can’t really find anywhere else.
The game has two parts that the player has to deal with, the first being their hometown and the second being the towns that they go to and try and develop. I will explain the player’s town first as it is also used as the main hub for the game.
The player’s town is an open field that can be developed by matching three like resource nodes. This will upgrade to the next level and you can rinse and repeat this process leveling things up further and further. The difficulty arises when you have to match three of a high level resource with lower ones because there is a finite amount of space.
This is what the main game focuses on and it is much harder than you would think. The puzzle aspect of the game is that if you run out of spaces to place new tiles the round is over and you get money to upgrade your hometown and you must start over from the beginning. The towns are semi-populated with grass, trees, rocks, and houses that you must build around and use and the next piece you are given is randomly generated as well so you can’t rely on getting a piece you need to save you.
There are some amenities the player is given to help the town along, the most important of which are the crystal and the reserve space. The crystal is the wildcard of the game and matches two pieces into the next highest so two grasses and a crystal make a bush and so on. If the player does not have two matches on the board the crystal is a game ender because it turns into a rock which is almost impossible to match (you must use other crystals to make more rocks). The reserve space is a spot where you can keep valued pieces for later use but you only have one reserve space so while it seems like a great idea to save a crystal forever there is little to do when you have two crystals saved up.
The game is incredibly simple to get into but very hard to master, especially if you don’t think spatially. The first few rounds I just threw down bushes and trees and ended up with a lot of wasted spaces where I couldn’t build. This got me some coins but in the end my rounds were short and my scores were low. Then I started really trying to get the best buildings which go all the way up to floating sky castles. This is the part that really sucks you in.
The rounds take an extremely long time when you are doing well because you can’t just mindlessly click and I found myself playing for upwards of 30 to 40 minutes sometimes. This is actually a problem with the game because for a casual title you can’t always just drop it and go do something else, because your towns do not save.
There are different starting towns to choose from as well with various benefits and drawbacks. Some have more space but spawn bears and ninja bears; others get rid of the bear menace and leave you with less space to build on. I am an achievement hunter and this is something that the Steam game has over the app store versions of the game. When you build that new level of castle you get a nice achievement for your work and it helps motivate you to plan out your town and spend the 40 minutes getting floating cyber castles.
I would give the game 4 out of 5 stars. It is easy to play yet hard to master. As a casual game the rounds do tend to take too long if you are looking for a quick satisfying fix.
Triple Town is developed by SpryFox, LLC