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20 February, 2014

TownCraft Review

If there’s one thing that roaming around in the world of TownCraft has taught me, it’s that running your own community is exhausting. Fishing, tending to your crops, building tables – being the man in charge is time consuming stuff. It’s to Australian developer Flat Earth Games’ credit then that its first iOS effort is such an enjoyable experience.

Taking a large cue from the insanely popular Minecraft, TownCraft drops you into the middle of a giant landscape with only your creativity and a basic objective to guide you. There’s a quick tutorial that will help explain the general gist of how to go about gathering materials like wood and stone, and how to craft them into items. But once you fly through that, it’s all up to you. 

As your confidence grows and hours unexpectedly fly by, you’ll work on upgrading your town from small wooden huts to various shops that will in turn attract more visitors. Similarly, you’ll also need to start rounding up various seedlings that will have you throwing on your straw hat to indulge in some old fashioned farming.

Once you’ve built up enough basic ingredients, you can start combining them to make finished products that can be sold to traders passing by. For example, harvest wheat and build yourself a handy windmill to turn it into flower, grab some water to turn it into dough, then throw that into an oven to make bread. Initially things start off simple; however products become increasingly intricate, as will the steps involved to get you there.

The only problem is, with no actual recipe guide to explain what combination of items will lead to what result, I found myself getting quite confused, very quickly. Trial and error experimentation gives its own sense of satisfaction, but the nature of mobile gaming means that you can often find yourself with a ten minute play window – say, if you are on a bus – and it’s frustrating blowing it all trying to work out how to create a door knob. Too often I was left at a standstill with no real idea of what to do or what I should create next.

Eventually I’d stumble upon the solution, however that experience highlights one rather large caveat: how much you get out of TownCraft is largely dependent on your patience.

Thankfully, conducting these tasks once you’ve worked out what you want to create is simple and easy to manage due to a smartly implemented touch interface. You’ll likely encounter the odd niggle - like engaging in a game of catch me if you can with locals or accidently triggering one of the game’s many menus - but they rarely detract from the overall charm. 

As a debut effort, TownCraft is an extremely ambitious experience that succeeds at keeping you entertained for hours on end. Not every idea works, but it’s only a few refinements away from being very special. As it stands, it’s definitely worth checking out for fans of would builders like Terraria and Minecraft, or even Nintendo’s Animal Crossing series. While Flat Earth Games is most certainly a developer to watch.

You can grab the game here

Verdict: An impressive debut from developer Flat Earth Games, TownCraft is a robust package that will have you happily sinking countless hours into building your own world without ever realising it.

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