Bulkypix has become one of the bigger iOS developers/publishers over the last couple years or so, putting out numerous popular games, loads of which have hit Apple’s New & Noteworthy list. I only bring this up because it all makes their latest release, Tiny Token Empires, for the iPhone, a bit of a mystery.
First off, the iPad version of Tiny Token Empires is $8.99, and the iPhone version is $0.99. This should be a big clue that there’s going to be quite a bit of the game left out of the iPhone version, and sadly, it’s there, but only available through IAPs. To get the full Tiny Token Empires iPhone game, a total of $7.92 (+tax) will need to be spent. Now, I’m all for premium pricing in the AppStore, but generally, only when a developer comes out with a premium game that deserves that premium price.
In the AppStore description, it says that Tiny Token Empires includes 5 campaigns, one per nation for over 15 hours of gaming, 5 nations, 5 heroes, 25 generals, and 50 kinds of units, including 5 kinds of puzzles, with 3 difficulty levels, and 4 other games modes, including solo and multi. So most customers will go into the purchase thinking, “wow, that’s quite a bit of gameplay for my $0.99!”, and it really seems like that is what Bulkypix is counting on. There is no mention of IAPs in the description, and nowhere does it say what you get for your $0.99. Here is what the dollar game consists of.
You’ll get OpenFeint support, the Roman campaign, which contains 4 missions, a Free Mission mode where you can either play as the Romans or Egyptians, in one of 5 different missions, choosing one of 3 difficulties, and a Quick Battle mode, which lets you play a randomized match-3 game against another empire, and that OpenFeint support; you‘ll have access to one leader board. Now, this doesn’t sound too bad for $0.99, except that this is everything that’s included in their PC demo. So with that in mind, and after playing the game for an hour, you’ll feel more like you’ve paid $0.99 for a lite version of the game.
However, the game is decent. You’ll start off with a town, build it up with defenses, an army, and more buildings, earning money with each turn, which enables you to build more of your town up. You’ll take your army, and move it from one section on the map to another, expanding your empire, and having a match-3 battle whenever you come across a territory that is already occupied by another ruler or civilization. The first 4 Roman campaign missions that you are given feel more like a tutorial though, with a “wise elder” telling you what you need to do to get through each mission, and then letting you half-way do the last mission on your own. Once you complete that, you’re done with the main game. You are given partial access to the free mission mode, and can play a randomized match-3 battle, but as for the main meat of the game. Done. In the game’s description is also says that there is a “multi” mode, but it’s not found anywhere in the game.
It’s almost impossible not to compare Tiny Token Empires to Puzzle Quest, because they are the two big match-3 adventure turn-based RPG type games in the AppStore. Puzzle Quest, with 3 chapters, with the first chapter being free, and 2 and 3 being $0.99 each, with over 40 hours of very impressive quest filled turn-based match-3 gameplay, and Tiny Token Empires, a little under $8, 15 hours of not so quest filled turn-based match-3 gameplay, with a demo/lite verison that costs $0.99.
I don’t want to say that Tiny Token Empires is a bad game, because it’s not. It’s put together extremely well, has nice graphics, and decent music. It’s user interface is a little clunky, but not so much that it gets in the way of the game. It does have some smoother looking animations sequences than Puzzle Quest, and it has free mission and random battle modes to go along with the campaign. I don’t think the game feels like a premium priced game though. A lot of gamers do not like the “pay-as-you-go” pricing model, and here, Bulkypix is charging iPod gamers for what they’re giving away to PC gamers. It doesn’t rub players the right way, and I have no idea how Bulkypix is going to come out of this one on top.