This is a freemium game review, in which we give our impressions immediately after booting a game up, again after three days, and finally after seven days. That's what the strange sub-headings are all about.
I'll level with you: nothing about the film The Croods looks interesting to me. Just watch this trailer.
Oh, boy! A family-friendly animated adventure about self-discovery and being creative, with a sure-to-be-yawnsome romance subplot, gender stereotyping, a bevy of cute animals to buy at Toys R Us, and all made by DreamWorks, a company that basically just isn't Pixar. What. A. Treat.
So when Rovio's new stab at a freemium-builder lands on my desk and I note that it's based on The Croods rather than Angry Birds, I'm not exactly thrilled at the prospect of playing it for a week.
Here we go.
To stay with DreamWorks, The Croods is the Puss in Boots of freemium world-builders: it's generic and derivative of other products in its field, but it's fine to look at and no doubt will find an audience by virtue of its name alone.
It's pretty, though, looking very much like a colourised version of the newspaper cartoon B.C. Ug, Brug, Crug, and Doug (or whatever their names are) all move quite freely, and although the building animation as you construct traps to snare animals is just a cloud of dust, it does the job. All in all, it looks like the minimum a studio would have to do to make a respectable game based on a licence.
I seem to be taking on the role of the dad to begin with, and – ho ho ho! - he's got a mother-in-law he doesn't like much! How fresh. How spectacularly new and witty. This is sure to be a source of constant mirth as the hours add up, especially as all the jokes so far have been about how she doesn't think he's very talented, and how she's a moaning old bag.
Day 3: Dull as a rock
Cave people didn't lead very exciting lives. I don't think I've been this apathetic towards a game since Norton McNerd once suggested that he and I "make a game" of sorting his collection of vintage floppy disk drives alphabetically.
Every action you perform takes an unnecessarily long time, which keeps you from immersing yourself in the world of The Croods. I've no desire to see their stupid little camp survive, let alone flourish.
There are lots of options when everything's in motion, but you complete each sequence in the hunting and gathering tutorial so slowly that you forget what each is for. Feeding berries to Molarbears makes them dig up carrots, which can then be fed to the Bunny Beasts, and so on. This creates a long chain that you need to maintain to get the highest value resources at its end.
You can Evolve the animals - and though I don't know why you'd want to - I do know that this costs Coins. You gain Coins naturally, and by trading in extra resources you've acquired for hard tender.Day 7: Remus and Biffy
A week in and the trudge continues, though The Croods is ever-so-slowly starting to open up and show a bit more of what it has to offer.
It's all still hunting and gathering, and I don't doubt that the gameplay will evolve further than a simple case of trying to collect every type of animal, habitat, and decoration in the game, but there's some thought needed in how you go about acquiring them.
For one thing, the resources you make to feed to animals higher in the food chain aren't produced naturally at a fast pace, so you'll have to level them up to increase how quickly they produce materials for you. This is done by feeding them a soup prepared by your partner, which in turn costs materials to produce. So there's a constant trade-off there that adds a nice bit of tension.
Though little of the game has much in the way of personality, I like a few of the small touches scattered about the design. Most notable is that each animal you capture is automatically assigned a dumb name - Remus and Biffy were my favourites - and that at least puts a bit of your own stamp onto the otherwise bland world.
It's difficult to build up the enthusiasm to play more of The Croods, so I don't think I will. It's a very unadventurous freemium-builder that adds nothing to the genre. It's not even saved by the licence, though if you're a big enough fan of the movie you can add a point or two to the score below.How are you getting on with the game? You can tell us and the rest of the PG community about your experiences by leaving a comment in the box below.