Treasure Story digs for gold in a very familiar style

Coming off the heels of a few cut-and-paste rehashes of earlier releases, we were starting to worry that iPhone games developer TeamLava might have lost their muse. Treasure Story has put those concerns to rest, as the team has gone back to doing what they do best: tackling popular Facebook formulas that have yet to make a successful transition to the iPhone.

This time around TeamLava seems to have found their inspiration in games like Treasure Madness and Treasure Isle. The crux of the gameplay is nigh-indistinguishable from its Facebook counterparts, offering players the chance to dig for treasure square by square in an island setting.

Each island will offer a set number of hidden treasure chests, and it’s up to players to find and open them all, revealing treasures that, when collected with other treasures in a set, can be turned in for gold and experience.

Treasure Story

Digging for treasure uses up energy, with different types of terrain requiring a different number of energy points to dig. If you decide to stick your virtual shovel in sand, for example, you’ll only use up 3 points. If you need to stick it in rock, you’ll be using up 7. Players have a set amount of energy to work with, but that can be replenished by eating the fruit you’ll find around the island. If you run out of fruit, you can either buy a refill with gems (the game’s paid currency) or shut the game down and wait for it to refill slowly over time.

Much to our delight, Treasure Story manages to do a lot of things right. Sure it’s missing some of the elements that have made similar games so much fun, like the inclusion of mini-games in Treasure Madness, or the need to purchase different kinds of equipment to explore different terrains – but the core gameplay that underpins the genre is reproduced flawlessly here. What’s more, you’ll be able to explore for a few minutes at a time rather than a few seconds thanks to generous fruit placement. There’s even a home island that you can visit and customize, where you’ll always have food on the cooker just waiting to give you that next energy boost.

Treasure Story

The only real complaint to be had with Treasure Story is how brutally the in-game store flogs you for real world cash when you’re trying to customize your island. Most freemium games (including TeamLava’s earlier efforts) offer a healthy balance of items that can be purchased with in-game currency and items that require you to spend cash on their premium currency (in this case, gems). The scales here, however, tilt heavily towards the paid side. Out of 37 items available at launch, only 10 can be purchased using in-game gold. And of these, all of them fall under the “decorations” category. If you want to purchase a new building or animal, you’ll need to bust out your wallet and buy gems.

This could easily be forgiven if trading in treasure collections would net you some of those coveted items or gems, but that’s simply not the case.

Despite the woeful imbalance in the store, there’s more than enough fun to be had in Treasure Story to overcome the purchasing aspects. If you enjoyed the “gotta find’em all!” treasure hunting fever that swept Facebook earlier this year, Treasure Story is a gem of an iPhone game that’ll fit snugly in your collection. Just don’t expect to spend too much time on customizing your island without having to dip into some real world purchases.