App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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Sometimes a game’s title just fits. It does a perfect job of getting the point across without bombarding the reader with unnecessary words. I’m looking at you, Shin Megami Tensi: Devil Summoner: Raidoh Kuzunoha vs. the Soulless Army. Anyway, games like The Sandbox do titles right. It’s pretty much dead-on about what players can expect. Which is to say it’s a sandbox. A glorious, pixilated, element-manipulating sandbox.
Things begin simply in the first few days. Players learn the basics of placing elements, as well as how they interact with each other. Soon they’ll be making mud to grow flowers, adjusting the temperature so that water creates vapor, and even creating electric devices such as lights or refrigeration units. Completing the assigned tasks in a given day will reward mana (think in-game cash), which is needed to purchase new elements and backgrounds, however mana can also be earned by completing various other tasks such as playing for a collective amount of hours. Anyone interested in sharing their creations can also make use of the screen shot button which snaps a photo and can be posted for the world to see.
I’m still somewhat awed by the way these various elements play off of each other. Sure they’re all pixels but water flows, freezes, and evaporates pretty realistically. The way lava will absorb stone or solidify with enough fluids is also impressive. And of course, as one would expect from a game called The Sandbox, it’s lots of fun to just mess around and see what happens. I could spend a half hour creating a pristine natural landscape (complete with scenic waterfall), then release a cloud of viruses into the air and watch them eat everything. It’s kind of hard to get bored with so many toys to play with.
I did come across an odd bug that wouldn’t let me change backgrounds for some reason, but it doesn’t really affect the game at all. A more pressing issue is the doling out of elements in the earlier stages. Plenty of mana can be earned quickly, but before long I just wasn’t getting enough of it between missions to unlock new elements essential to my progression. A stand-out example in my mind is needing so much mana to unlock the Power (as in power source) element, but not having enough. I couldn’t complete the level without it, so I had no choice but to fiddle around in the Free Mode trying to complete a few random tasks until I had enough.
But while it does take some time and effort to unlock all of the elements, it can be done relatively quickly. And once they’re all available players’ imaginations can really run wild. The Sandbox is already one heck of a game, freemium or not, and it has nowhere else to go from here but up.