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For: iPhone   Also on: Android, iPad

Grows on you

Product: Growtopia | Developer: Robinson Technologies | Publisher: Hamumu | Format: iPhone | Genre: Multiplayer, Platform, Simulation | Players: 1 | Networking: wireless (network) | Version: Europe | App version: 1.05
Growtopia iPhone, thumbnail 1
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.

Growtopia is described by its developer as "an experimental multiplayer creative sandbox platformer MMO with crafting." Which has more than a whiff of amateur Kickstarter project about it if you ask me.

Clearly attempting to surf a little of the abundant goodwill created by games like Minecraft and Terraria, Growtopia will need to set itself apart if it wants to avoid being dismissed as just another clone.

Does it succeed? I've been given seven days to play it, learn its intricacies, get in deep with its community, and find out whether it deserves space on your mobile handset of choice. Here are my findings.

First Impressions

The aroma of the independent developer is strong in Growtopia's visual design. In fact, it reeks of it.

I dislike the crude menus, the UI is bland and cramped, and I hate the character design. I don't throw that word around often, but I genuinely hate it - I'm going to be running around as a gormless-looking, utterly charmless collection of mishapen pixels, and I hate it.

IAPs explained
Item packs can be bought instead of made, including signs, clothes, doors and more. You can also buy Locks, which protect areas of the map you've created from being modified These all cost Gems, the game's only currency.

To lock down everything with the World Lock, it'll set you back 2000 Gems, with 1000 Gems costing 69p. You can Recycle items in your inventory in exchange for Gems, but as you'd expect, it's a lengthy and resource-intensive process.
The world around this ugly avatar is decent enough, though. It still has the flairless grace of a title created from stock assets of a Game Maker or similar, but combined with its tile-based simplicity it reminds me of my Atari ST days.

Not that I had an Atari ST, of course. I couldn't afford one. But my friend James Maltby did, and we'd sit for hours playing single-player games as if they were multiplayer. For instance, we'd take turns to explore and survive in the first Rick Dangerous. In a way, Growtopia is an evolution of this single/multiplayer experience.

Everything's online with Growtopia - from the tutorial to your very own persistent world. The idea is that you use the resources from the world around you to sculpt buildings, objects, or whatever you wish. It's your world and you can do what you want in it.

But since the world's persistent, anyone can come into your land if they know its name, and either create with you or - if they're anything like me when playing with James Maltby - destroy all of your hard work.

Having gone through the tutorial and learned how to punch blocks to break them down and collect resources, I forged PocketGamer world, and started digging.

Day 3: Tro-lo-lo

The more I play Growtopia, the more I dislike human beings on the internet. Or rather, the more I loathe the fact that many people seem incapable of civil interactions in a world that comes bundled with a sense of detached anonymity.

I have discovered the serious flaw in Growtopia's chaotic and largely uncooperative multiplayer - and it's rooted at a base gameplay level. It's a problem of punching.

The only way your avatar directly interacts with its environment is by hitting it. Because your only effect on the world is a violent one, it encourages the community at large to, in turn, be violent.

Log into a game world and you'll experience fist-fights aplenty, people bickering in the text chat, and players setting up traps for others.

My two particular favourite instances of man's inhumanity to man were 1) having lava blocks built around me and being punched into one so I pinged about inside until I died, and 2) getting trapped in a corner of a map and punched repeatedly until I lagged out.

Perhaps this is only fitting. After all, the company behind Growtopia is the same that put out the equally bizarre and brutal cult classic Dink Smallwood. The community members who are actively making things are constructing platforming challenge worlds of Super Meat Boy levels of difficulty.

Thankfully, to constrain the vandalism there are special locks that ensure no new blocks can be added or destroyed, so if you're particularly precious about your world you can guarantee it won't be tampered with.

Day 7: Variety is the spice of life

I started playing around and experimenting with Growtopia's various systems over the last few days, and I think that this is where a lot of the lasting value of the game sprouts from.

There are plenty of items to graft together through a process of combining seeds. These aren't your regular planting seeds. These are seeds that sprout doors, bricks, signs, and more.

Once you've grown a seed to maturity you're given a handful of the item you've planted, and more seeds. You can chuck two different types of seed together onto one square on the landscape around you, and if they're compatible they cross-breed to create a new item.

There's an odd sense of logic to proceedings: combine a Door Seed with Dirt Seed and you get a Crappy Sign; pop a Lava and Cave Background seed together and you'll grow a Lava Rock. Fair enough.

Finding all of the pairings is a mammoth task - if you don't FAQ it - and you'll spend time foraging for more materials so you can see everything and finally make that pair of shorts you want. Oh yeah: you can grow clothes. Weird.

The game seems still to be somewhat under development, with constant incremental updates. It's great to see that it's being supported properly, and though potential future content doesn't factor into a review it's at least worth an impressed nod to the development team for adding more content to the game post-release, tweaking bugs, and generally engaging with the players.

If you muster a few friends to play this with you, avoiding the cacophony caused by randoms online, then it's a quirky but pleasant collaborative, creation-focused platformer.

Alone, the trolling and griefing can start to wear you down.

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.
Reviewer photo
Peter Willington | 28 January 2013
An intriguing builder with platforming elements that, while aiming for collaboration, seems more suitable for competition and trolling. If you like Terraria or Minecraft, it's worth a look
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