Triple Town makes an excellent first impression. It’s a unique take on the match-3 genre that also gives it a colony/city building twist (only in flavour, though. It plays nothing like a city simulation). The graphics are super-ultra-kawaii-cutie-koochy-koochy-boo-boo. And while it has no music, Triple Town is also host to mega-adorable sound effects: bears make little grunts and citizens will come out of their buildings to talk gibberish with each other.
On Mobiles, these great impressions don’t last. On those platforms, the game advertises itself as free-to-play, but is actually not. If you want to play more than a limited number of turns per day, you have to pay a one-time fee of about $4. Triple Town developers have also devised other means to suck your money, by selling in-game currency, or cosmetic improvements. For what is ultimately a simple match-3 game disguised as free-to-play entertainment, the bill can therefore quickly inflate. Especially as the game is designed to make you want to trade your real cash against the in-game currency.
For you see, the in-game currency you earn at the end of a session, or from your meta-game buildings, is incredibly small when compared to the costs of the items from the in-game shop. It can literally take several hours before you can buy anything remotely useful.
On PC, where the game will cost you money upfront ($10, outside of sales), you of course get unlimited turns from the start, and there is no built-in real money micro-transaction. That doesn't mean that you get everything the mobile version has to offer against your initial investment. Oooh no… Instead, many things are forever out of your reach: no cosmetic upgrade and no graphical themes for you! And you’d be wrong to think that the absence of real-money micro-transaction means a better balance between rewards and item costs.
I know that all those optional extras (graphical themes, in-game shop…) can be ignored, no matter how distastefully they serve the developer’s business model. But the fact is that the core game quickly shows its limits too. There is just not enough variety to sustain lasting fun. Game after game, you’ll be doing the same things with the same elements. Getting better only means that a game lasts more turns, not that you reach a further stage. There are several levels to select at the start of the game, but the difference is limited to the size of the starting grid or the frequency of bear appearances. Depending on your tolerance for repetitiveness, Triple Town will start feeling tiresome after two to five hours.
Conclusion: Triple Town is built on a promising twist of the match-3 formula, with limited but cute audio-visual assets. Its mechanisms are however too limited to provide lasting appeal. Add to that a misleading and greedy micro-transaction scheme on the mobile versions, or limitations to the PC version features, and you get a casual game that is very hard to recommend. There are many match-3 games on the market that are polished, provide variety and are honest about how they want your money, like “Bejeweled 3” and “4 Elements”, to name just a few. You should play those instead.
Posted: November 30th, 2013