There’s a lot to do in Coin ‘n Carry, but none of it is very compelling.

Without getting too deep in a review of a free-to-play browser game, we’re all looking for a purpose in life. FrogDice took this idea and put it into Coin ‘n Carry, where there’s a reason for everything. Mini-games, crafting and shopkeeping live together in perfect harmony, which is great. The only problem is that it isn’t quite as fun as it sounds like it should be.

One thing that Coin ‘n Carry has going for it is a video tutorial to introduce its multiple concepts. This is something that more games should do: show instead of tell, especially when the showing is accompanied by some driving techno music. Maybe you go dubstep if you want something even more of the moment. In any case, this is a good start.

Your character is a shopkeeper who you can customize with a variety of clothing and gear. Aside from just looking cooler, upgrading your clothes can help you earn more resources playing the mini-games by granting a variety of bonuses. That’s merely the first part of the synergy at work here.

The 20-plus mini-games are spread between three different continents, and you need to play them to gather resources for crafting goods or to open your shop.  I mean that literally too, since you need to play enough games to fill a meter at the top of the menu screen before you can craft or sell anything. This feels like an unusual restriction, but since you need the resources gathered from the mini-games to make anything, it isn’t that big a deal.

You’ll recognize a lot of the gameplay themes in the mini-games from other mobile and social games. There’s an endless runner, hidden object games, and several different takes on the match-3 genre. Most of them are intuitive enough to jump right in and play, though the few that aren’t can be frustrating because they aren’t explained in great detail. All controls are handled by either the mouse or keyboard.

Coin 'n Carry

With one or two exceptions, all of the mini-games are timed affairs, adding an extra sense of urgency while you play. The better your score, the more resources you’ll get, and there’s also a chance for collectible items, crafting recipes, and other loot. I’d imagine almost anyone will find some mini-games they like, but they do get repetitive after a while. I guarantee the sound of the strange cheers that play when you succeed at some of the games will haunt you after you’re done.

Once you’ve got resources stocked up, it’s off to the crafting workshop. Cranking out goods is also done while racing the clock, the better to make sure you don’t end up sitting on piles of unsold wares. The process of crafting is pretty easy, as you drag recipes into a window and drag the correct resources into slots beneath them. You also have to enter the correct quantity of each resource using the number keys, press a button to finish, and presto, you’ve got a knife, a hood or something else a medieval peasant might need.

Coin 'n Carry

From there, it’s time to practice your retail skills. This entails merchandising a solid mix of goods and watching to see what’s selling when customers start showing up. A time limit is also enforced here; anything you don’t sell can be given to friends – a good reason to make some in-game connections – or else it gets donated to the less fortunate citizens. When closing time rolls around, back you go to the mini-games.

And therein lies the rub. The gameplay loop in Coin ‘n Carry makes perfect sense, and there are a few extra layers like pets and collectibles that add some additional depth. It’s just that none of the various phases of the metagame are really compelling on their own, and the way they link together is more interesting than exciting. An overall lack of polish in everything from the way some of the mini-games duplicate each other to the occasionally rough graphics also keeps the high concept from fulfilling its potential.

Coin ‘n Carry is successful as an exercise in game design, I just don’t know how successful it is as an actual game. As it turns out, that’s a small but important difference.