Version Reviewed: 1.0.0
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 4S
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Game Controls Rating:
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WonderCraft, the new naval battle game released this week on iOS, looks great on paper. It has sleek graphics, a simple control scheme, integrated multiplayer, and robust player progression and customization options. However, the game gets bogged down in trying to implement all of these great features in the right way. What's more, the game includes lots of limits and restrictions to progression that players can pay to circumvent, making it resemble freemium or free-to-play titles while still touting a hefty initial price tag. At launch the game is free, but supposedly the price will rise to a whopping $5.99 after the limited launch sale is over. Whether or not the price hike will actually happen remains to be seen, but WonderCrafts time limited upgrades and in-game economics seemed geared toward encouraging more player purchases than the initial download.
In WonderCraft, players control boats on the ocean by tilting their device and fire on enemy ships by tapping on them. Enemies can be either CPU controlled boats or boats controlled by other players online, depending on the type of match. Players receive gold for destroying enemy boats and they can use this gold to purchase new boats and weapons. However, these upgrades are time limited and once purchased are only available to use in the game for a number of days. Once those days are up, the player will have to repurchase the upgrade to continue using it. Players can buy gold in bulk through in-app purchases, but it is possible to build up enough gold to make purchases just by playing the game. Still, this mechanic of upgrades with expiration dates seems to have less to do with encouraging the player to play more than it does with encouraging the player to buy easy gold. There's nothing inherently wrong with offering purchased upgrades, but it does not serve a game well to funnel its players in that direction through otherwise restricted gameplay (especially in a paid game).
The gameplay in WonderCraft is fairly entertaining. The online play is smooth and responsive with little to no lag. The graphics are polished and the individual boat designs, though small, are distinct and creative. The controls can seem a bit sluggish depending on what boat the player is using, but the tilt controls are well calibrated and work consistently.
Unfortunately, this game's finer points are often overshadowed by the fact that WonderCraft appears to be another in a long line of games offering shallow mechanics and innocuous progression in an attempt to funnel players to in-app purchases. It's certainly possible to have fun with this game without any in-app purchases, but it would be wise to download it and enjoy it for free while possible.