What would you call Frontierville if it were set on an island? Paradise Life, apparently
We’ve been here before. Sure, we clobbered snakes instead of crabs and took quests from a grizzled forty-niner instead of an Ariel-inspired mermaid, but Paradise Life is so close in design and play style to Zynga’s celebrated Frontierville that it might as well be an island-themed mod. Of course, this also means it’s fun. If you were never comfortable living out your days as a hardscrabble settler digging up grass and rocks in the Old West, you may enjoy digging up grass and rocks on your own island. Social gaming beach bums, rejoice: This is the game for you.
But again, if you’ve played Frontierville, you’ve played Paradise Life. Menu items are in nearly the same spot in each game, and each game features a small explosion of coins, food, and experience stars once you’ve performed an action. Likewise, both games allow you to hire your friends for work, both feature a bonus bar to reward you for picking up many items at once, and you can even marry someone and settle down in your ragtag kingdom by the sea. (Apparently Paradise Life is more Richard Branson than Robinson Crusoe.) You can make wish lists, you can attack menacing creatures, and you gain reputation from working for your friends. Even the music sounds a touch too close to Frontierville’s, although the peppy Hawaiian melodies of Paradise Life might have the upper hand. The list goes on.
Indeed, little is original aside from the art itself, which could still pass for the work of Zynga’s artists. Even so, its faint flashes of originality save Paradise Life from being a mere rip-off, and the sight of avatars crossing bodies of water with an inflatable yellow duck should bring a smile to anyone. The buildings look exactly as buildings should on island hideaways, complete with aging boats for roofs on some and plain sod on others, and floating barrels of radioactive waste add a bit of modern ecological humor. If you really want something new, however, you must content yourself with Paradise’s Islands otherwise forgettable fishing option.
Expect some bugs. At times your friends won’t show up on your neighbor bar for days at a time, which makes raising your reputation with them impossible. Elsewhere, missions requiring specific items never recognize that you may have bought them on your own, and thus you end up afraid to buy anything expensive since it may be needed later. (The two huts in one of our screenshots sprung from this problem.) Some quests requiring visits to your neighbors require more energy than you can use, and energy itself is exceedingly scarce. Otherwise, Paradise Life runs fine, and the responsive development team eagerly responds to any suggestions for improvement.
But will this improvement merely amount to ironing out the kinks? Likely so. Paradise Life maintains its fun merely by slavishly following Frontierville’s successful formula without contributing anything new of its own, and there’s little indication that some earthshaking innovation is on the way. Frontierville taught us that this formula could be used for great and arguably better things; Paradise Life’s idea of improvement is adding the option to fish. Again, it’s fun for these very reasons, and may attract many social gamers seeking a mere change of scenery. The game is new, so there are plenty of reasons to expect coming changes. The game is largely polished, so there’s no need to dismiss it as a shoddy knockoff. Alas, the game is nevertheless a mere copy, which may hamper its success unless something radically exciting is introduced. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, but Ice Break Games may have gone a few steps too far.