Sunday, December 23, 2012

It's A Smurf's Life: A Review of the Smurf Life app

Do you like tedious schlep work?  Do you enjoy dry, boring repetitious tasks?  Do you have loads of copious free time and just no good way to spend it?  Maybe you've recently been in a boat accident and the fun center in your brain was damaged?

Well, you are in luck!  Beeline, the people who bring you the incredibly enjoyable Smurfs' Village app have bungled up a new game for you play.  Smurf Life puts you in control of your very own smurf, freshly arrived in Smurf Village (not the fun game, this game).  So what's a young smurf who just hit town to do?  Apparently everyone else's schlep work.  Under the guise of pushing back storm clouds from one of Gargamel's nefarious schemes, you are tasked with rescuing trapped smurfs and helping rebuild the village.  That doesn't sound so bad does it?  No.  The basic premise this game is founded upon isn't bad at all, it's the execution that fails.
How do you rescue smurfs?  Go on wild adventures?  Fend off hungry forest animals?  Make daring raids upon Gargamel's house?  Nope.  Try building benches and mixing potions.  Very exciting.  When the game starts, Papa asks you to pick a profession to apprentice under so that you can put your enthusiasm to work.  You may select from Alchemy and Construction.  Construction is considered the Basic starting area and Alchemy the more advanced, but both are exactly the same with different skin so it makes no difference and pretty shortly you'll be doing both so it really makes no difference.  Flip a coin.
Oh, I should mention that when you first start the game, you get to name your smurf and decide how they dress.  This customization should be more interesting, but it's actually pretty mundane and easily forgotten.  See how easily I forgot it in this review.

So anyway, you pick a profession and then go to that area of the village to learn how to do cumulatively repetitive tasks. I'm not kidding.  It's more like work than a game.  Let's take a closer look at the basic game play and you'll see what I mean.  Since both trades are the same, we'll pick Alchemy.  When you first start the tasks are simple:  gather a resource (say stone) and then take it to the alchemy lab and turn it into something basic (say mortar and pestle).  Gathering the resource takes energy of which you have 50 units.  Each resource you gather (stone, wood, sand, aluminum) requires a different amount of energy.  Energy refills slowly over time.  Sometimes a recipe for what you are making requires you to buy something from your trademaster (like say a bucket or some nails).  These items cost coins.  Coins are earned slowly by completing various tasks.  Some specialized items require the use of Moondust.  Moon dust are also the currency that enables you to speed up any aspect of the game or instantly unlock things.  Yep, you guessed it, Moondust are the game's in-app purchase.  For future reference, one dollar buys you 10 Moondust.You can also earn Moondust slowly by leveling up your skills.

After completing a few recipes successfully, you will start getting tasks that require more in-depth recipes.  Sadly, this is also where the game breaks down.  Let's skip ahead to the task my smurf is currently on.  Someone needs an Orange Potion.  To make an Orange Potion, I need water in a bucket, 2 crushed milkweed, and a bottle.  I will need to buy or create all three.  (Un)Fortunately, I have recipes for all of these things because I have been making them over and over for other quests leading up to this one.  We'll get the easy part out of the way first: the water.  I can buy a bucket from Alchemist Smurf for 10 coins, then fill it with water from the well for 1 Energy.  (so far that's 10C, 1 E, and 0 time).  I will keep this tally running throughout this process).  That takes care of 1/3 of the requirements for the Potion.  Not that tough.  Next I need 2 crushed Milkweed.  Crushed Milkweed is made from 1 milkweed cutting and one mortar and pestle and 30 seconds of make time.  (10C, 1 E, 30sec.)  Cutting Milkweed takes 4 Energy. (10C, 5E, 30sec.).  Making a mortar and pestle requires 1 stone and 12 seconds.  (10C, 5E, 42 sec.).  It takes 3 Energy to collect 1 stone (10C, 8E, 42 sec.).  And with that I have 1 crushed milkweed.  Just one. So we have to do all of that over again to make the second one. (10C, 15E, 1min. 22 sec.) Slightly annoying, but nothing too terrible.  But now we have to make the bottle.

To make a bottle I need 2 glass and 5 mins. (10C, 15E, 6.22mins.)  To make one glass, I need 1 bucket of sand, 2 Iron Shavings, and 1 Aluminum Shaving, plus 3 mins. (10C, 15E, 9.22mins.).  Let's tackle the bucket of sand first.  The bucket, again (yes you have to buy a new bucket every time), costs 10C, and collecting sand takes 1 E. (20C, 16E, 9.22mins.)  Next, I need 2 Iron Shavings.  Iron Shavings require 1 Iron and 1 mortar and pestle and 36 sec. (20C, 16E, 9.58mins.).  It takes 10E to collect 1 Iron (20C, 26E, 9.58sec.).  I have to make another mortar and pestle (yes, every time), that means 1 stone (3E) and 12 seconds. (20C, 29E, 10.10mins).  And that's only the FIRST Iron Shaving. I have to make second one. (+13E, 12sec.) (20C, 42E, 10.22mins). 
Ok, so now I have the bucket of sand and 2 iron shavings.  The last thing I need is 1 aluminum shaving, which requires 1 aluminum that takes 6 Energy to collect, and another mortar and pestle which we know very well by now requires 3E and 12 seconds plus another 2 minutes to create.  (20C, 51E, 12.34mins.).  With all of that I have made ONE glass.  Making a bottle takes 2 glass, so double all of that work. (30C, 87E, 18.58mins.)
Now I have the glass to make the bottle.  Once made, I have the bottle, the 2 crushed millkweed and the bucket of water, exactly what I need to make the Orange Potion.  Finally, making the orange potion takes 2 minutes.  That brings our tally to 30 coins, 87 Energy, and 20.58 minutes.  But wait, there's more.  Your energy limit is 50. Energy renews at 1E per 2 minutes.  So the additional 37 energy that we need will require 74 extra minutes to generate the energy I need.

So.  To make the Orange Potion for a single quest it takes 30 coins, 87 Energy, and 94 minutes and 58 seconds.  FOR ONE QUEST.  An hour and a half of game play.  For one quest.  And no part of that was fun.  No part.  But that's ok, now that I have the Orange Potion, I bet I get to do something really cool with it.  That must be the reward for all of this work.  It has to be, right?
Nope.  You take the potion to Alchemist and he gives you 45 coins.  That's it.  A net profit of 15 coins.  No more, no less.  Then you get another quest just like this one to make a shrinking potion, so you get to do it all over again.

Where is the fun?  The game looks amazing.  The village looks really cool.  The graphics are bright and colorful.  But the game play is dull.  Dull, dull, dull.  Oh and hey, what if you want Smurfette to join your village?  Simple, you can rescue her!  All it takes is 5 bottles of Magic Plant Remover!  Surely you can make those at the Alchemy Lab, right?  Nope.  Only Papa Smurf can make this potion and he only wants to sell it for Moondust.  Yep.  Real money. $4 worth of real money just to unlock Smurfette.  And she's not the only Smurf like this, nor is this a novel situation.  Seems plant remover is a common necessity in this village and will be required to unlock many new areas.  Beeline has always had a more intense focus on the profit margins of these games, but this is pretty much just shameless.  They want your money and they want you to keep it coming, but they haven't created a game that is fun enough to warrant spending a dime.  I have accumulated 44 Moondust for free and I have no intention of spending them on anything unless I absolutely have to. Which probably won't happen as I don't plan on playing this game much longer.

If there is any fun to be found in Smurf Life it is far too well hidden for me to find.  Far as I can tell this game is a bunch of busy work with little to no reward for the effort.  Tasks are repetitive and cumulative.  In making one Orange Potion I had to make 8 mortar and pestle.  When is that fun?  It's not, it is just redundant.  I love the Smurfs and I love Smurfs' Village, but Smurf Life is a complete flop from my perspective.  The game looks amazing, but the game play is dry white toast.  There isn't even a social aspect to distract yourself with.  One would assume that would be a staple in a game like this.

Oh well.  Nice try Beeline, but I'll pass.

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