Treasure Arm is a great free puzzler with an unnecessary freemium twist

We’ve seen the microtransaction route for a while now in casual games. The idea to purchase in-game currency to speed things up works well with games that have very long tails to them. Genres like MMOs or social games like FrontierVille or Smurfs’ Village use it logically and, for many people, advantageously. Treasure Arm tries to use this same technique with a puzzle game and, while it’s a great puzzler, the pay-to-play part doesn’t really work too well.

The goal in each of the 40 levels is to rotate a robotic arm to a key that then needs to be moved to its corresponding colored lock. The arm has two articulation points: one rotates the whole arm from a central gear, the other bends the arm at an elbow point for further refined movement. There are two “thumbprint” controls on either side of the screen, each controlling one of the movements, arm or elbow. It’s a bit like using a remote-controlled car. There is a learning curve, but Treasure Arm‘s gentle yet solid difficulty curve ensures there’s never a spike.

Just to make things interesting, you have two important gauges working against you. The first is a timer which gives you a minute and a half to finish the level. The other is the strength meter which is how much energy the arm has left. You lose energy not only by colliding with obstacles, but it drains every time you move it. You’ll have to plan your path quickly and carefully. It’s a challenge, but neither meter gets to be aggravating.

Treasure Arm

Speaking of obstacles, there are a bunch of them. From moving platforms to mines (that instantly destroy your arm!) to electrical currents and magnetic fields that disturb the movement of the arm, there’s plenty to have to deal with here. The timing aspect of the gameplay adds a bit of a twitch game element to it, deepening the gameplay. Of course there are a huge number of powerups that help level the playing field, ranging from adding more energy or time to freezing the moving obstacles, or changing the speed of the arm’s rotation.

Treasure Arm‘s presentation is top-notch. Crisp, bright, colorful graphics are paired with a rocking guitar soundtrack. The game exudes energy, and collisions crash while electricity sizzles. It’s very well put together.

The big twist in Treasure Arm is its use of golden keys. These keys are earned by beating levels (earning two keys for every level you finish). These let you purchase an extra set of ten levels as well as a multitude of items to use in any level to give you that extra edge.

However, most of the items cost a fortune in golden keys. To earn more, you can either participate in an affiliate program (download and run one of many games from the App Store to earn more) or just buy them with real cash. It’s a neat idea – one that allows Treasure Arm to be a free app – but feels misapplied.

Treasure Arm

The game has an ad to download another title every single time you load it up, which is a real annoyance. But more to the point, outside of unlocking the extra levels at a reasonable price, you really don’t need to use the store for anything else. No level is undefeatable without an item you have to purchase; it’s just there to make it easier.

But in a puzzler with only 40 levels and a definite end, buying these kinds of items defeats the purpose of the game. In a social game for instance, buying something may speed up progression to the next level by several days. Here, it hurtles you towards a goal that much faster. If you’re that frustrated by puzzle games, you may want to consider another genre.

Odd applications of microtransactions aside, Treasure Arm is a great puzzle game, made all the better by its free price point. It’s a fun new take on pocket puzzlers, and has enough depth to keep you going for a while. Just keep it away from your checkbook.