As you may or may not know, I write iOS game reviews for both Macworld and GamePro. Okay, well GamePro is now gone so I guess I write for PCWorld.
Anyway, that means that I end up playing a lot of games -- both good and bad, popular and unpopular, simple and complex.
My most recent iOS obsession is Backflip Studio's real-time "FarmVille"-like game, DragonVale.
Despite the fact that DragonVale is buggy -- it crashes often and is very slow to load -- I love it. There are a few different reasons that I'm enamored with it, including a relatively simple interface, the fact that though you can make in-app purchases you really don't need to, and the fact that their flagship dragon looks a lot like the Shoyru from Neopets, but one reason really stands out. And that is: it's the first real-time FarmVille-style game in which you do not need to rush back to your farm (or, in this case, magical floating island) to harvest your crops (or, in this case, collect cash from your dragon displays) once they're finished growing (accumulating money).
|This is a Shoyru.|
Not from DragonVale...
Anyway, a little bit about DragonVale. It's a simple premise -- you run a dragon zoo with different dragons on display. You can purchase habitats, dragon eggs, and decorations for your zoo. Each dragon accumulates cash as time goes by (higher-level dragons mean more cash), but each habitat has a maximum amount of cash it can accumulate before you must collect it.
So, unlike FarmVille, in which you must come back to your farm at a certain time to harvest your crops or risk losing the crop, in DragonVale you must come back to your zoo to collect cash once you reach the maximum. However, if you don't make it back in time, your cash doesn't disappear -- you just can't accumulate any more of it until you've collected your cash.
This is perhaps the main reason I enjoy DragonVale -- I am vaguely interested in social gaming, but I absolutely hate how the -Ville games take over your life. I remember back when I was reviewing Office Heroes, my biggest issue was that I'd be casually checking my email while driving (not that I make a habit of using my phone while driving), and suddenly I'd get this SUPER URGENT POP-UP NOTIFICATION that was all like, "OMG GO TO THIS GAME AND COLLECT YOUR MONEY RIGHT NOW OR IT WILL DISAPPEAR FOREVER!!!!" Okay, so the notification said something more along the lines of, "Your order is about to expire," but in my head it definitely read as the former.
There's more to DragonVale than just collecting money, though -- your ultimate goal is to nab every different breed of dragon. Basic dragons can be purchased in the store using the game's first form of currency, cash. Rarer dragons can be purchased using the game's second form of currency, gems -- of course, the second form of currency can only be accumulated by receiving gifts (from your many DragonVale friends) or by purchase (er, yeah...using real-world $$). However, rare dragons can also be bred in the Dragon LoveShack (okay, so it's actually called a breeding cave, or something). I'm glad that all of the dragons -- rare or not -- are attainable for free, and not for "free" as in "you can get them for free if you spend 1,677,344 hours playing the game". Rather, breeding dragons takes a little more work and time, but it's not absurd.
So yeah, my only real issue with DragonVale is that it's rather slow and buggy, a fact that can frustrate even the most patient of players.