Freemium games are always difficult to rate, because you get more out of them the more that you spend on them. Your experience of them is likely to be hindered greatly if you spend less money on them. When reviewing such apps, I work on the basis that they should still be fun if no money is spent on them, and rate them accordingly. Even when you pay no money out for a game, it should still provide you with an excellent experience. This system means that I struggle to rate freemium games very highly – to my memory, the highest score I’ve given one is 74%. Not a bad score, but by no means exceptional. Tiny Village, although good, is unable to beat this score.
Predictably, the app operates on an in-game currency system: To progress through the game, you buy items using two in-game currencies, coins and crystals. Although it’s possible to obtain coins and crystals the hard way, by slogging through the game at a snail’s pace, you can speed up your progression massively by splashing your own real-world cash on the in-game currencies.
Coins and crystals buy houses, quarries, stores and more, with which you construct your very own little village. When you install items, they generate an income for you. Villagers (who come along with their house) pay tax. Rather inexplicably, so do trees. At places like quarries and woods, you accumulate piles of wood, rocks, food and more, storing them in (appropriately) a store. You can then use these items as alternative forms of income, being able to make certain items out of them and sometimes being able to convert them into coins.
The catch is, you generate an income far slower than you’ll want to spend it. To expand your village with any kind of pace, you’ll need to spend money on the game – lots of it. For example, currently on sale – BIG TEETH, SMALL PRICE: HALF PRICE – is the sabretooth tiger. It’s now costs a bargainous 249 crystals. Great deal, right? Sure, except that 10 crystals cost $0.99. At the best value rate for crystals – 1725 crystals for $99.99 – the reduced price sabretooth tiger works out costing $14.43. Hardly a ‘small price’, and definitely not worth the cost.
Yet again, a freemium model is used to put money above gameplay. A perfect demonstrator of this is the app’s objectives: they all centre on expanding your village through purchasing new items – new items that require yet more coins and crystals, requires you to have yet more patience or spend yet more real-world cash. To make you even more likely to spend on the game, when you buy new items, they take a specified amount of time to be built, a period which you can skip for a specified number of crystals (it’s never particularly cheap).
That said, in the time I’ve spent with the game, it’s not been all bad. There is something endearing about the app, making its commercial focus much more bearable. Tiny Village is a simple concept carried out with visual charm, a nice clean interface, friendly music and a welcoming character. It’s just a shame that it takes so long to progress unless you’re willing to spend a significant amount of your money on it.