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Saturday, September 7, 2013

[Review] The Sandbox (on iPhone's iOS)

One of the most funnest and unusually addicting games on the decade has to be that of Minecraft. From that have spawned a whole new genre of games that attempt to mimic its same characteristics of building an entire world. Most of these games fall away from the norm of using the latest graphics just like Minecraft has done. The Sandbox is no different.

The Sandbox puts you, as the user, as a god of the world before you. What's fundamentally different is that this time it's a 2D world and there's only a portion of the iPhone's screen to work with. Sandbox's point of view is less from a user within the world and more of a user looking into the world. As I said before, you are the god of this universe with the power to do any and all at your will.

What made Minecraft a success was not only the ability to create but also to merge items within the world. Sandbox is built around this idea.

In the above screenshot is The Sandbox's main menu. You can choose from one of two modes to play. This being a game called Sandbox, many will flock to Free Mode and completely miss Campaigns. However, while I was once like this, I began to play the campaigns to learn more about the game as well as unlock new features.

Yes, unfortunately, this is one of those games that requires you to unlock features. The Sandbox is currently available for free from the App Market but it has the ability to allow users to purchase items within the game using a system called "Mana". Mana is a currency within the game that is used for purchasing various elements and objects to build a world with.

As you can see in the above picture, these are just some of the available elements. I bold "some" because there are lots of possibilities in the game. Most elements and objects fall from the sky while some will stay isolated in whatever position you put them in.

Players can use various forces of nature such as soil, water, stone, mud, sand, and many more to build the world they want to create.

Below are screenshots showing how I built a mountain out of stone.

After I created the mountain, I decided to give it a small beach and lake next to it as you can see in the picture below.

After creating my beach, I decided to add some mud and trees. Then I decided that I'd like to destroy it with some lava. You can see its effect in the next picture.

One of the cool things about this game is how it allows players to even create volcanos. As you can see below, I have morphed a mountain into a volcano by placing lava in the heart of the mountain.

Eventually the lava erupted and overcame the entire mountain turning the land into a large lava ocean.

The ability to create things inside of other elements like stone is the game's use of a pickaxe.

In the screenshot above, you can see various tools that can be used in the game. Tools like the pickaxe are great for putting things inside of other things without them falling such as lava in a mountain. Other tools are familiar like the Fill allows players to fill an entire area with an element. Replace allows players to convert all tiles of a certain type into another type. With one tap of my finger, an entire mountain can be turned into lava or water.

A game, such as this, wouldn't be complete without NPCs (non-playable characters). This game allows players to insert humans into the world and allow them to do whatever they want with the map's elements and objects.

Players can then give their inserted humans different traits and objects that they can use. Some of these include allowing them to be hunters and gatherers or to be stone workers or even become zombies and kill one another.

Humans in this game are not invincible when it comes to nature either. They will melt with lava and can even die if the world becomes too cold.

In Campaign, the game helps you by giving you a tutorial. In the process of doing so, the game also helps give you Mana and new elements and teaches you how to use these elements and objects in any way you see fit.

The tutorial gets challenging but you can complete it using "skips" and "hints" which can help you overcome tough areas. I wouldn't recommend using skips as it's expensive (1,000 Mana to skip) and you don't get to learn how to use the game's mechanics.

Like Minecraft and other games in the genre, Sandbox has an infinite amount of ways to create a world. There are many more features that I haven't discussed and more that I haven't even discovered!

My only problems with the game are the limited space for creating a world and the in-game purchases. But the game is still fun and the limited space quickly becomes not so limited when you get used to the game.

I would highly recommend the game to anyone who wants to play a sandbox game on the go. It's free from the App Store, so there's a plus, and it will always give you new challenges to face. The Campaign is challenging but fun and enlightening. There's no story to the game except what you make of it.

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