App Reviewed on: iPhone 5, iPad Mini
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You've got to love a game with a Newbie's Guide on offer from the first screen as you log in. See, Growtopia is one of the latest crop of open world sandbox time games, popularized by Minecraft and Terraria, and recently brought to iOS with The Blockheads, that attract me like no other games on the platform. Except tower defense games, but that's another post. The Newbie's Guide was essential to even understand how the game works, but it's a quick read, and well worth the initial effort.
Growtopia takes a unique approach to the mining and crafting genre in two ways. One, its main crafting mechanic is via "splicing," or planting different seeds in dual combination to make new things. Everything in Growtopia is, not surprisingly, grown or dug out of the ground.
Two, Growtopia is different is in how multiplayer is managed. One of the jooys of these kinds of games is playing together. The Blockheads allows players to invite one other person, via Game Center, into their crafting and mining world. Growtopia takes a different tact: every world is massively multiplayer. Connecting to any single world is as easy as typing in its name, or choosing that name from the initial list upon login. This allows for a ton of folks to play together, but also allows for unscrupulous players to come into any world and cause havoc, destroying things. The developers have created some locking mechanisms that can be purchased to avoid this, and there is a fairly robust set of worlds out there that have managed to set things up to avoid griefers. An easy solution to this would be to allow private, or invite only worlds in addition to the publicly accessible ones currently on offer.
The game uses in-app currency--gems--to purchase items that players don't want to spend time splicing and mining. It becomes apparent quickly that purchasing rare seeds, item packs, and the like, are the primary way to get beyond the basics quickly in any world. Gems can be slowly earned via mining, or purchased in packs. There's even a TapJoy system in place to earn gems by completing offers, which always feels a little slimy to me.
Nonetheless, there's a great game to be had here in Growtopia. The crafting mechanic is unique, and growing all sorts of little trees for doors, bricks, wooden platforms, and (!) super crate boxes is compelling enough to get me to purchase more gems at times. The multiplayer holds a lot of promise, especially once more of my friends get the game, but the opportunity for scams and other malfeasance is great, so buyer beware.