Sinister Reviews #06: Triple Town

#06: Triple Town (Facebook)
Genre: Casual, Strategy
Platform: Facebook (version tested), Google+, Kindle
Release Date: October 2011
Developer: Spry Fox
Publisher: Spry Fox

There was meant to be a full-blown review of Disney’s Epic Mickey on the Wii this week, but then Triple Town happened. So, rather than postponing my usual update, I thought I’d do a mini-review of what’s become by far the best game I’ve played on a social networking site so far. Boom.

Triple Town is a match-three game a la Bejeweled and a thousand clones, but with a twist: The board doesn’t fill up itself, but you choose where to place stuff, attempting to connect up items of the same type to construct a woodland metropolis. There are various types of ‘items’ that make up your town; from grass, to bushes, trees, huts, houses and so on. A single click places your next randomly-generated object (usually low-ranking items like grass, but sometimes higher-level ones like trees or huts) onto the map; connect up three or more of the same item (either in a row or ‘L’ shape, putting the ‘triple’ in Triple Town) and they’ll mutate into the next-level building right where you last clicked: Three grasses connect to make a bush, three bushes connect to make a tree; three trees make a hut; keep going until you fill up the board completely, and it’s game over. Each time you match up three and generate a new item, you’ll collect some points, and higher-ranking items (e.g. houses and castles) earn you more moolah. Simple.

The thing is, with every click or every piece of grass placed on the board, you’re already thinking twelve moves ahead: I need to put this grass here so I can finish that bush there, which’ll connect up with these bushes to make a tree over here, which if I put some more bushes and trees over here then I can stick a house down over there. Every move needs to be carefully planned, as an incorrect placing can play havoc and leave one-square blocks dotted around which’ll soon be filled up and cause the ‘game over’ screen to drop. No matter though, because a single click later, and you’ll start off with a new randomly-generated town, ready to be manipulated all over again. And you’ll keep clicking and keep clicking, because Triple Town is about as addictive as crack and you’ll find yourself muttering that Civilization mantra over and over again: “Just one more turn…”

Your first time booting up Triple Town will be accompanied by a short-but-sweet tutorial explaining the main game mechanics (not that there’s too much to learn), and from then on you’ll be playing an addictive time sink that’s easy to pick up but tricky to master. In the top-left corner, there’s a storage area where you can store one item if you don’t want to use it quite yet, and in addition to the regular items, there’s couple of wild cards which can let you finish a trio or remove an item from the game. So far, so straightforward. It’s not all plain sailing though, because not only do you have to contend with your own (at least in my case, foolhardy)  town planning, but also the presence of Bears which’ll quickly become a fly in your prosperous rural ointment.  Bears are randomly generated in the same way as everything else, and must be dropped onto a free space on the board whereby they’ll mill around aimlessly and, usually, be in the exact place at the exact time you wanted to drop that last patch of grass to forge a new hut. Surrounding them on all sides, however, converts them into a gravestone (I’m sure no animals are harmed in the playing of Triple Town) which, if you connect three up like any other item, turn into a church; and this is where a strategic balancing-act comes in, whereby you have to shepherd Bears around the map to where they’re least problematic, but at the same time trying to keep your town growing without hindering your own progress.

The versions available on both Facebook and Google+ are subject to the same limitations as most games that use social networking sites as a host, with the available number of ‘turns’ limited by time; run out of turns, and you’ll have to go away and come back in a few hours when your turn count will have re-charged.  There’s some microtransaction  functionality through purchasing in-game currency which allows you to shop for your desired next item rather than letting the wheel of fate randomly choose it for you – but if that seems a bit rich for you, then you can earn the same currency at the end of each exhausted town; and anyway it’s often far more exciting to let the Gods decide your fate rather than your wallet. I’ve never really gotten on with most Facebook games, largely because they seem to run on ‘sharing’ notifications or gifting completely unrelated objects to friends, but Triple Town is blissfully ignorant: At no point will you be requested to share your scores with others (though you can do, if you wish), or be forced to invite friends in order to access new content. There’s also no ‘time’ element like, say, FarmVille where you must return to the game after a set number of hours to harvest your crops; just turn up on Facebook when you fancy a game, and it’s all go. Its minimalism is certainly refreshing, and it’d be wonderful if more Facebook games would follow in its footsteps and adopt similar mindsets. Instead, Triple Town has spread by word-of-mouth alone, and it’s all the better for it. It’s currently still in Beta on Facebook and Google+, but it’s already finely polished to a sparkling gleam. There’s even a hint of further, seasonal, updates as demonstrated by the ‘Hallowe’en’ theme spotted recently:

If you’re looking for something simple to pass the time or just procrastinate the hours away, then it’s as casual as a game can get; but keen strategists will find plenty to like here, too. My recommendation? Give it a whirl, but be warned: Be prepared to lose hours, nay days, to this charming puzzling treasure. [9]

Next Time: Epic Mickey (Wii)

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One thought on “Sinister Reviews #06: Triple Town

  1. […] Social Network Game ~ Triple Town (Facebook, Google […]

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