Monday, September 30, 2013

Review: Terraria

The building. The mining. The crafting. Terraria has finally ambled its way out of the sanguine depths of PC gaming to the dirty back alley known as the Android Marketplace. Yes, the 2D Minecraft-like has all the thrills of putting blocks on other blocks that you have come to expect in a game like this.

Even if you are only tangentially aware of this sort of game, you’re probably familiar with the mechanics already. You dig stuff up out of the ground and combine that stuff with other stuff to create brand new stuff! The sky’s the limit! Or whatever the developers decide is the limit. Under 600 items? Get out of here with your inferior game, you peasant!
And there’s combat. Oh there is combat if you can call it that. You can swing your sword, axe or pick at your choice of zombies, slimes, other zombies and even more slimes. Eventually, you dig down deep enough into the center of the earth where you get to do battle with goldfish, bunnies and the Eye of Cthulhu. But just his eye. Presumably because Cthulhu himself was off sipping tea with his skeleton army.

Terraria features a wide variety of weapons aside from the sword, axe & pick. Weapons like guns, swords, chainsaws, other swords, and even more chainsaws are yours for the taking if you’re willing to take the time to go mining for it. You can even build a lightsaber. Yes, that is a thing in the game. Because every game needs to have a lightsaber. Because when your game relies so heavily on The Thing That Made Minecraft Famous, you need to differentiate yourself from the pack. And what better way to do that than by co-opting another popular franchise?

Aside from weapons, there are plenty of other things to craft as well. You can craft hats, for example. Just imagine being able to wear a hat in a video game! And of course there are the requisite armors, rulers, bookcases & other useless items that come along with this sort of thing.

So it’s more of the same. But don’t let that dissuade you. Some people just happen to like more of the same. More of the same got Nintendo to where they are. And there’s nothing necessarily wrong with any of that.

As would be expected, the graphics are neither better nor worse than any version out there. Visually, it’s bright and colorful in all the right places. More importantly, the world still feels big. Big, big, big. Enormous. Gargantuan. Big, huge and empty. The major difference between playing on a phone versus your computer is how small everything is once the game begins. Of course, this all could be fixed with the inclusion of a zoom function.
While I can’t speak for how it plays on the iPhone, the controls are simply terrible, almost rendering the game unplayable. Even as something as simple as making a jump is rendered much more difficult than it needs be.
The issue stems from the implementation of the control scheme. The directional pad & action buttons are not in fixed sections of the screen. Any time the screen is touched, the directional pad & action buttons will appear there. However, this presents a few problems. Particularly during harried sections of the game where the player is forced to flee, this can be particularly aggravating. Your fat thumbs, sweaty from hours of mining Birkenstock sandals out of the ground slip off, causing the aforementioned bunnies to gang up on you and nibble your toes to death. You try to jump away from them, but it’s too late: you’ve lept backwards into the Nostril of Satan and have lost all of your adamantite.
The Terraria Experience Now Available On Android
Aside from the horrible vanishing D-Pad, controlling exactly where you want to place blocks is also an exercise in frustration. Oh you didn’t want to lay down 15 blocks all on the same spot? Well too bad. At least your house will have plenty of protection from the unrelenting swarms of pink and blue slimes.
Without a mouse, you are left to guess as to where your character is going to place a block down. Attacking & mining fare better, both requiring less precision than house building but still face the same problem of shifty controls when armed with anything other than the chainsaw swinging between your legs.
This is the very reason Terraria simply doesn’t adapt very well to the Android environment. Being a PC game, it relies on PC game controls. Touch screen controls are finicky at the best of times. While the developer has admirably attempted to bridge the gap between the PC and the mobile world, the execution is flawed, ultimately.

Still, I don’t doubt that for its intended audience, Android Terraria will still be an enjoyable experience. Many of the issues facing the game could be addressed in patches. But most unwilling to adapt to the game will likely find the game in its current state to be a frustrating experience.

Buy it on Google Play | iTunes | Amazon

Released: 2013-09-26
Publisher: Re-Logic, 505 Games
Developer: Re-Logic


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