Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2, iPod touch 4
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
Pocket Minions represents much of what is bad about games that have in-app purchases: when it’s baked into the game design, it can be something truly onerous.
The goal of Pocket Minions is to build towers full of minions that do various things, such as collecting resources, maintaining the tower, or taking care of ne’er-do-wells. There are objectives, such as building to certain heights or building so many of one unit, to help lead the player along the way, with enemies like dragons to occasionally ward off. It’s akin to a deeper Tiny Tower, except sometimes people need to be imprisoned for becoming thieves.
The idea of a tower simulation that is more involved is the strongest thing here. While there are a lot of elements to factor in, the game's objective system helps keep things from getting too out of hand. The graphics are also very detailed, showing fantastic detail when zoomed in, especially on Retina Displays.
Let me just say this: the controls in Pocket Minions are terrible. It is way too easy to accidentally tap something, and it feels like half the time what I meant to tap was something besides what I did. It’s just so busy, there’s no room for the minions to breathe, and all the interface elements are just extremely cluttered. This is as true on the iPad as it is on the iPhone.
A more serious issue is how the game swiftly reveals itself to be an IAP trap. It gets way too easy to get stuck at a point where real-world money needs to be spent. For example, on the second tower, I got to a point where I needed to produce some nails to keep building upward. I wasn’t able to build the units to make nails because I needed nails to build them. Stay with me here. I could trade crystals for nails, but I used up crystals when I got stuck in a similar trap earlier where I basically had to use the secondary currency to solve my problem.
I don’t have a problem with IAP as an optional element, but I do have a problem the only obvious solution is to pay to keep going. Restarting my tower on a level where I feel like I'm stuck is an option, but then that's money down the drain. Such is the danger of trying to get people to solve their problems with real-world money: it doesn’t provide a positive feedback loop. I could begrudingly fork over money to solve my problem, or I could quit and go play a game that isn’t designed to suck money out of my wallet. I did the latter, and feel better for it. It's a shame because there is such promise here.