Stop Dashing & Start Building!
Time management games now come in a variety of flavors. While the most popular continue to be the “Diner Dash” clones which have you running around frantically trying to fulfill the needs of impatient customers, a new breed of time management game is quicky gaining in popularity. These “build and repair” type games typically have you collecting resources, constructing buildings, repairing structures, and completing goals before an arbitrary timer runs out. I typically enjoy these games a great deal because they tend to be quite challenging and offer a lot of bang for the buck. These types of games are also starting to show up more frequently on the App Store for iOS devices. I’m loving it, because time management games are my absolute favorite genre to play on my iPad. There’s something quite exhilarating about using touch controls to order your workers around in a fast-paced time management game. The bit of extra speed you get from not having to drag a mouse cursor around the screen more than makes up for the slight loss of accuracy.
Island Tribe HD is a nice example of how fun these games can be on Apple’s tablet. The game’s story, told in brief slides, involves something about a tribe of villagers rebuilding totems and creating inventions in order to escape from a doomed island. However, the story is really not that important. Just note that you need to gather stuff, rebuild stuff, and do it all very, very quickly!
How to Run an Island
Each map in Island Tribe HD consists of a sometimes maze-like series of paths which contain resources and obstacles. Clicking on a resource sends out a villager to collect the resource and bring it back to a central villager home base. Clicking on an obstacle sends a villager to repair or remove the obstacle, providing that you have the resources to do so. In addition, each map contains resource-generating structures that you must build or repair in order to use. These structures will deposit a resource every few seconds or so on a set time schedule, but will only generate a new unit when the previous unit has been harvested. For this reason it’s important to gather resources frequently, else you may find yourself far behind with time running out. An idle resource is a wasted resource!
If this sounds simple so far, well it is. Anyone should be able to grasp the basics of the gameplay pretty quickly. The real challenge lies in the fact that each map typically has an optimal order of doing things, and beating the timer will require figuring this out. The timer has two settings. Beating the expert time will reward you with a gold idol symbol on your map. If you fail to beat this goal you can still finish the map and move on by beating the “normal” time. Of course, if you’re a perfectionist like me you won’t settle for being merely normal!
The game starts off fairly simply, having you collect only a limited number of types of resources like wood, stone, and honey. As the game progresses you will be introduces to more resource types as well as structures that require another type of resource in order to function. For example, most high level structures such as granaries or dairies will occasionally require water to function. You may also be met with obstacles like bee swarms or snakes that require a resource like honey or milk to dispatch. In later levels, upgrading resource buildings becomes important. An upgraded structure produces more resources at a time, but upgrading itself costs resources and puts your building out of commission for a short period of time. Knowing when to upgrade and when to conserve becomes a crucial strategy in the more advanced stages.
Short But Sweet
Island Tribe HD is presented with delightful tropical artwork reminiscent of a tropical “tiki” paradise. The game’s graphics look crisp and clear on the iPad, which is important considering how small the units are. Tiny birds and woodland creatures can be seen darting around as you play, giving you the God-like feel of actually controlling a little world. The audio is also entertaining, with a jaunty island soundtrack that never grates and simple unobtrusive sound effects for the various resource structures.
The game boasts somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty levels, which is a little short compared to others of its type. If you blow straight through it, this comes out to 4 or 5 hours of gameplay, depending on how good you are. However, the game’s later stages will likely have you replaying them multiple times in order to reach the Expert goal. This brings me to the only real fault I had with Island Tribe HD – difficulty. The first two-thirds of the game are fairly easy, and should pose little problem to any but novice time management fans. The last third of the game, however, boasts some absolutely wicked levels that may have you pulling your hair out. I must confess that I didn’t even reach Expert on a few of these levels, and I consider myself a pro. My only other minor nitpick was an occasional lack of responsiveness, but the game has received an update since this review that is supposed to improve performance.
There are some great “build and repair” time management games on the iPad. While Island Tribe isn’t the best of these due to its difficulty fluctuations, it is still a great deal of fun. It is currently available at a bargain price that is well worth the investment. If nothing else, give the free demo version a whirl just to see how the iPad can be an awesome mobile gaming device because of touch screen controls and not just in spite of them.