So a Squirrel, a Lynx, and a Yeti walk into an archipelago…
Mobile games are becoming an increasingly attractive way to market goods to consumers. They’re cheaper to make than console games, have a wider audience, and tend to be either free or very affordable. There’s movie tie-ins like Wreck-It Ralphand Temple Run: Brave, as well as unfortunate examples like the Doritos joint Dip Desperado. Most interesting, is the growing number of mobile titles used to market other games, like Borderlands Legends, for example. It makes sense, serving as an easy way to introduce a franchise to a wider demographic — one already likely interested in gaming.
Allods Adventure is a game built with this model in mind, serving as a tie-in for the MMORPG Allods Online. While the game being quasi-marketed involves RPG fare like swordplay and sorcery, Allods Adventure is very much a game in its own right, focusing instead on grid-based puzzle mechanics, furry creatures, and the occasional in-app purchase.
Taking control over various different creatures, the game drops you into a gridded 3D map, with the goal being to maneuver your critters about the terrain in an effort to defeat every monster within the level. At any given time, you’ll have three types of creatures to use: one that attacks, one that can move enemies, and another that can freeze or thaw them. Some enemies need to be thawed-out before they can be attacked, while others must be pushed around to come within attack range. The enemies themselves do not really move or counter attack, but instead serve as puzzle pieces for you to manipulate. Each of the three creatures you control have a limited amount of uses level to level, too, adding some strategic depth to a game that seems a little simple up front.
Each level takes place on an isolated island within an archipelago, giving you a limited amount of ground to cover. You control only one creature at a time, and tapping another’s icon on the right swaps it in. You can pinch to zoom in and swipe to move the camera around, mechanics which work well to allow you to survey the land and plan out your approach. The 3D worlds are very easy on the eyes, too, with spreads of foliage and grassy hills, snow-fallen forests and arid deserts.
At first, the levels presented are very easy, as there are quite a few creatures for you to try out, and the game wants to ensure you fully grasp the mechanics, as each creature performs its singular task in different ways. For example, the Squirrel and Lynx can move enemies about, but the Squirrel swaps position with them while the Lynx pushes them ahead. Both the Yeti and Lizard attack, but the Yeti hits enemies outward diagonally while the Lizard attacks in a frontal cone. These characteristics may seem like small differences, but produce a wide variety of strategies within the tight corners of the island terrain.
Defeating every monster within a single level may achieve victory, but in order to fully complete each island you’ll need to do more than simply wipe out their inhabitants. Scattered throughout each level are stars and treasure. Treasure can be collected by a simple tap of the finger, and is usually pretty easy to locate. Gathering these shiny trinkets doesn’t do much to help you in the game, as it only unlocks art and assets from the Allods universe, serving to remind you that the game you are playing ties in to a much larger franchise. Stars on the other hand are quite valuable, as they unlock new content and can be pretty hard to acquire, adding in an extra layer of challenge to the game’s base goal.
Unlike treasure, you collect stars in much the same way you defeat enemies, meaning you’ll be pushing, swapping and freezing them in order to arrange them in a manner that allows you to line them up with enemies and take out the whole lot — all while staying within the limited amount of maneuvers you are granted. Taking out all the stars can prove quite troublesome, as most are precariously positioned in such a way that you’ll be heading for the hint button at least once.
Hints in the game are free, but only at first. You are granted 10 in total, and once used up, you are given the option to purchase chunks more at various price points. This aspect of the game’s monetization system seems fair, as you are never denied any portion of gameplay due to a pay wall. However, the hints are not very subtle. They basically just solve the riddle for you. There are no tiles that light up or animals suggested for use; the game just goes ahead and makes the next correct move for you. With no middle ground between solving riddles on your own and having the game do the work for you, the hint system feels more on-the-nose than a pair of eyeglasses.
The core game is somewhat short, with four archipelagos each made up of 5 islands, making for a total of 20 levels in all. Three additional islands can be unlocked by collecting stars, and the game again employs in-app transactions to allow the purchase of even more content. While the main game is a little slow starting and takes a while to offer more challenging levels, the unlockable ones are actually quite good and may have you pondering the possibility of in-app purchases, either for hints or more content to explore.