A mixture of games, can it be true!? A fishing game, an idle game, a Tetromino-y merge-y game, and a logic puzzle game! The games are mostly from Google Play’s rather chaotic recommendations, hence a bit of variety for once.
The games are in descending order of “fun”, and might contain mild spoilers:
#1: Casting Away
Casting Away is one of the very few recommendations via the Google Play Store that I’ve actually enjoyed! For once it’s not an idle game, it’s a pretty typical yet satisfying fishing game.
This is not a complex game. You go sailing, catch some fish, use those fish to catch better fish, sell some fish, upgrade your island, and repeat. Despite this, the combination of skill and luck required to catch high level fish makes it way more fun than I expected.
There is a bit of complexity via the “Fish Farm” feature, where your most expensive fish can be stored and used to earn chests. This relatively small addition means catching any fish requires choosing whether to sell it immediately, use it as a bait, or store it in the fish farm. Small feature, but adds depth. The fishing itself is extremely simple, with a single button (plus the ability to move the boat). Pressing this button casts out the line, and can reel it in whilst it falls through the water. Moving the bait as it falls is essential for avoiding the lower level fish as your expensive fish bait descends to the best fish.
Your island has pretty simple upgrades, but they all help the fishing process. For example, upgrading the deck gives access to better boats with more capacity and movement speed. Upgrading the farm gives access to more animals, whose produce is used for craftable foods (once the house is also upgraded!), used for temporary perks like bonus XP or money.
Having small diversions like upgrading your island or crafting power-ups adds some very necessary depth to the game, although more would definitely be appreciated. Features like a Pokédex-style “Caught fish list” are great for completionists, but I’m starting to feel like the game has run out of surprises whilst only just reaching the 2nd of 3 fishing zones (4-5 hours). Unfortunately the core loop gets pretty repetitive, and I can’t see myself playing this too much longer.
Finally, there are a few bugs. The game crashes occasionally, there’s minor typos here and there, but luckily none of them seemed to actually break the game.
This is the elephant in the room.
Forced video ads, chests requiring ads to open, microtransactions, skipping timers with adverts, it has all of them. Despite this, I was enjoying the game enough to buy the pretty expensive ad removal (£7!).
Once the ad remover has been purchased, the game improves drastically. Triple chest rewards, free timer skips, luckily the game does the generous ad remover option of still giving all the optional perks. I honestly can’t imagine enjoying the game without buying this, forced video ads are usually an instant red flag.
- The boat moves! I didn’t realise this for an embarrassingly long time, oops.
- Holding your finger on the screen speeds up cutscenes (including the intro).
- I ignored the fishing bag for a long time, but the “Minnow” bait guard is an extremely powerful item I’d recommend having on hand.
- Overall, this is how I progressed:
- Throw the line out, if the 1-star fish is worth more than 100 just carry it to sell.
- Otherwise, use it as bait for a 2-star fish.
- If the 2-star fish is worth more than 1000, just carry it to sell (or put in fish farm).
- Otherwise, use it as bait, enable the Minnow, and let your protected bait drop down to the 3-star fish area.
- This fish will probably be worth around 2000, far more than the cost to create a Minnow (1500 for 2).
- Food ingredients are only useful for temporary buffs, so you might as well just craft & use them ASAP.
- Learning which fish are high value just takes time, you’ll soon learn which are worthless in their tier though!
- The best use for currency is buying island upgrades, followed by rod upgrades, as some fish are locked behind higher levels.
#2: Inventory Idle
Inventory Idle is technically unreleased, I saw this open beta announcement and couldn’t resist since I love… inventories! The game may have changed by the time this article comes out, I played v1.0.6.
The core gameplay loop here is really, really satisfying: Make a good weapon, use the blueprint of it to increase your income, use this income to improve weapon generation, and repeat.
The complexity comes from the number of ways income can be increased, including:
- Buying level-ups and using the skill points to improve weapon value, magic upgrades, weapon quality, weapon luck, and the speed to create a weapon.
- Buying improvements to weapon generators, so they produce more items at once.
- Buying magic upgrades (unlocked by quest completions) that usually give free weapon generators.
- Finally, there’s also a prestige mechanic that… is perhaps a little bit overcomplicated and hard to parse, yet doesn’t seem particularly worth it.
You can have up to 10 “plants” producing your blueprints, with each being completely independent. During the early game figuring out which tier of items are most profitable can be tricky, since you can usually produce more of the common items, yet they are worth less.
Luckily, the plant overview actually shows the money per second in addition to the item cost, so this can be compared easily. Whilst this gameplay loop and the variety of ways to increase income ensure the first few hours are engaging, it dries up a bit after that. Prestiging doesn’t seem very powerful, as it takes an extremely long time to get back to where you were for relatively minor benefits.
The game suffered from a few unintuitive design choices, such as a dedicated “inventory” screen on the navigation bar despite the only purpose being to delete unused blueprints. This would be OK if there were limited features, but essential screens like plant upgrades, quests, and prestiging are hidden away!
There were a few minor bugs (as to be expected with a beta!), mostly around audio not muting properly and numbers below 100 not displaying properly. However, the actual gameplay seems smooth, albeit a bit aimless later on. Late game (Level 400 after a couple of prestiges) is unfortunately extremely repetitive. All you’ll do is tap generate weapon once a second, very rarely (< 1/200) change your blueprints, then occasionally buy minor upgrades.
Despite some of these negative comments, the polish around weapon generation really shows, and it hooks into the “lootbox” part of your brain. I actually played much longer than I expected to due to how satisfying the weapon creation feels. The game has massive potential, but needs better longer term rewards (e.g. a “collection log” of items).
There are only optional adverts. Watching one spins a wheel with pretty underwhelming rewards such as 2 million coins when I earned 30 million coins in idle income whilst watching the advert. Another common reward was 10 diamonds, with the cheapest reward (just some coins) being 100 diamonds. Due to this, I only tried the wheel 3-4x.
I’d have liked to see the ability to purchase income multipliers, improved luck, or longer idle income, let me pay to speed up progress!
- Don’t prestige early. The game will give you access far before you should do it, I’d recommend waiting until you’re into the billions.
- Prices scale up quickly in the early game, so you’ll be replacing weapons pretty often.
- Higher quality items won’t necessarily earn more. In the long run they will, but if you have more plant upgrades for a lower quality it might be a better choice.
- “Production” is king. If this number is higher, use that blueprint. There is no reason to try and use all the same quality or anything like that, all that matters is income.
#3: Griddie Islands
Whilst Griddie Islands is technically just yet another merging game, it adds to the formula with a Tetris / Tetromino feature requiring the money-making shapes to fit onto the oddly shaped island.
It’s a simple game, with a simple concept, but does a great job of it. This isn’t a game that will strain the brain, but it is one to open every hour or two, use up all the earned coins, and then close again.
If you’ve ever played any of these merge games, you’ll know the basic concept. Free mergeable pieces spawn over time, but you can also purchase them using your money. Money comes from the value of your placed mergeable pieces. Additionally, if the island’s tiles are entirely full (hard to do!), all earnings get a pretty significant 50% boost.
What makes Griddie Islands stand out is the fair pricing of piece buying, no forced adverts, and the slight increase in complexity caused by trying to fit all the pieces on. There’s also the nice visual flair of each level of tiles having a distinct appearance. Whilst they don’t differ too much (they are Tetris pieces after all), some of them are pretty creepy.
Although I’m not too far into the game, the game looks like it has a few surprises left. For example, there seems to be some sort of island picker feature later on, and a mysterious “level loop”.
Finally, there’s also a Discord, but it looks essentially unused, with only a couple of messages in the last few months.
There are adverts you can watch to boost earnings, but… they didn’t work for me, and don’t seem necessary at all.
The premium gems are earned through completing easy quests, and whilst they can be purchased, they don’t seem worth it. These daily and lifetime quests provide plenty of gems for free, and I was struggling to even spend them (Free pieces? Temporary boosts?) let alone buying more.
- Tap the “long brick” icon to change which brick you’re buying! I accidentally spent ages buying the first brick.
- New buyable bricks unlock each time you increase your maximum merge, so check back often.
- Generally each level of brick should be twice the price of the one before, as it earns you just over twice as much.
|Quests||Early game||Later on|
Another post, another seemingly simple logic puzzle game that drastically ramps up in difficulty!
Fill-a-pix is a three-way hybrid of puzzle genres Minesweeper, Slitherlink, and Nonogram.
As with all of those games, the only rule is extremely simple: each number shows how many of the surrounding 3x3 grid should be coloured. However, whilst this makes “9” and “0”s simple, even the very easy puzzles can take a bit of confused staring before making progress.
Satisfyingly, when I first opened the game even the simplest puzzles were challenging. With practice though, solving common scenarios means basic logic can be sped through. Personally the larger puzzles (above 10x10) are quite challenging, since the edges provide quite a lot of help.
The number of puzzles can be a little misleading, with a small very easy taking ~30 seconds, whilst a large medium/hard could take hours!
Looking at the developer’s website and Developer Profile, they are following a pretty clear formula! Every app is almost identically designed, however the great reviews suggest they are all bare bones yet engaging. Personally I’m pretty happy an “old-fashioned” game developer like this can thrive.
Overall the app is pretty bare bones, but puzzle completion is as satisfying as you’d expect. There are small touches like animations when filling in tiles that elevate it beyond the absolute basics, but then the odd typography and very basic design undermine this. Of course, given my love for basic puzzle games this isn’t necessarily a blocker, however the monetisation stops this becoming a game I can truly love…
This is perhaps the scariest monetisation I’ve ever seen. There are 564 puzzle packs, with 5 provided for free.
That’s over 550 puzzle packs, each a few dollars. That is thousands of dollars for a very minimalist, simple game. This is insane.
I assume this is justified by an older target audience, but as someone who tends to like completing games where possible this is absolutely crazy. Ideally, there would be some sort of (optional) subscription giving access to the thousands of puzzles, or a way to unlock 1 per week for a low fee. As it is, the impossibility of ever playing all the puzzles for under a few thousand dollars made the game significantly less fun.
- The built-in instructions do a much better job than I can! In general, it’s just practice makes perfect.
- Make sure you don’t miss the few free weekly puzzles.
|Main screen||Easy puzzle||Hard puzzle|