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Review: Magic Tree (iOS)

Saturday, April 21st, 2012 by

Last month, I went negative pretty early on Magic Tree by Com2uS. I was told by a representative that the preview I was down on was an early look, not quite ready for press, and that I should give the game a try. I agreed to give Com2uS another shot, even though they’ve disappointed me in the past.

When you first boot up the game, you are prompted for your Com2uS Hub information. After logging in (or creating an account), the game selects your character’s name and sex based off the provided information. I understand, as this could be a holdover from some strict Korean laws regarding gaming and the Internet. It could also be Com2uS looking to curtail men scamming other men with female avatars. That’s cool with me seeing as I’ve no interest in creating a female character, but I’m sure a lot of people will have an issue with this.

What I had a problem with was the lack of character customization. Your avatars are very generic with few choices to choose from at creation. While you can later customize your characters with costumes, a more robust avatar creation tool would have went a long way to making me relate to my character. Say what you want, but you’ll love your baby more when you see how it looks like you.

Magic Tree takes place in real time. If you’ve ever played other social games by Zynga or Com2uS, you already know how the game goes. You have an energy gauge and most actions you make on your land deplete that energy. Planting trees and crops or interacting with decorations do not deplete energy. Each action provides experience and many actions also provide coins.

Like every other free-to-play game, there’s a secondary currency that can buy you premium items or abilities. Magic Tree’s secondary currency is Star Dust. The game does reward you with three Stardusts when you level up, just like The Smurfs’ Village did doled out three Smurfberries per level. Unlike Beeline’s game, though, three is just a drop in the bucket. The economies of the games are very different. Energy regenerates slowly over time, and players will have to choose between waiting patiently or throwing money at the problem.

Every crop, tree, and animal can drop collection items at random. Collect all five of those items and you can exchange them for some sort of bonus. These collections also include an experience and coin reward, so they will help you progress.

Occasionally, when you perform an energy-depleting action like clearing your land, feeding your animals, or watering your plants, a wild animal will spawn and need to be fought off. At this point, it becomes painfully obvious that Com2uS is ripping off Zynga’s Frontierville. I suppose that’s karma and all. Still, it’s hard to overlook.

Welcome to a peaceful, magical... AHH!!! BEAR!!! WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!

The game is also buggy, which I’ve honestly come to expect from early builds, and will unexpectedly crash. However, what’s not as forgivable is the atrocious load times. The game takes nearly a minute to load and God forbid you want to visit someone else’s village. I’m willing to wait fifteen seconds tops. It makes the tedium of visiting your neighbors even more tedious.

Magic Tree does have a few elements to separate it from the pack. Trees, for instance, die off after four seasons in Magic Tree. However, they occasionally drop magic seeds that can be mixed to create the titular magic trees. Magic trees have unlimited seasons meaning you’ll never need to plant them again. The downside is that getting the seeds from your trees is not guaranteed. You may need to plant and harvest the same tree over and again just to get one seed to drop. It’s tedious and not at all fun. Plus, since all the trees have different harvest times, there’s a good chance that one of your seasons will simply rot as you sleep.

Then you have the interactions with decorations. This, sadly, is the only step that Magic Tree takes in the right direction. Finally, there’s a reason to decorate your land other than the sake of expressing yourself. That said, this could end up being a double-edged sword. People may choose not to decorate how they want simply because it would be better to have an item out that generates experience rather than the decoration you want because it looks nice.

When you press skip, you still have to sit through the animation.

And people will have to make that choice. The game does have many missions with coin and experience rewards to guide you along your way, but its just not enough. After a week with the game, I’m just hitting level 7. This is far from my first social game. I know what I’m doing. Magic Tree has a HUGE level grind. But, with no story and only one NPC in the entire game, I don’t really see the point. I’m sure I’m not alone, either.

I wanted Com2uS to prove me wrong about Magic Tree. Honestly, I hoped they would knock one out of the park while I hung my head in shame, humbled for being so brazen. But my first impression from the poorly translated presser that Com2uS tweeted was spot on, poop trees and all.

People are obviously starving for a Harvest Moon game on iOS devices, but Magic Tree is not that game. It’s not even close and anyone who tells you otherwise is an idiot. There is nothing particularly compelling about Magic Tree, even by cow-clicker standards. The game gives you little reason to keep playing beyond advancing your path to nowhere.

(Magic Tree is universal and available for free in the App Store. The game was tested using an iPhone 4. Magic Tree features GameCenter integration and features 25 achievements based off of the 25 different Magic Trees you can create.)

About the Author

Fade to Slack is a founding member of Delta Attack, an American expatriate in South Korea, and a true believer in the legitimacy of mobile gaming. Keep up with him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Fade2Slack so he can justify having a Twitter account.

Fade to Slack has written 330 posts on Delta Attack

2 Responses to “Review: Magic Tree (iOS)”

  1. Mark A. Brooks says:

    [whistles]. I think that’s the worst score we’ve doled out yet. A dubious honor!

    • Fade to Slack says:

      No, Mafia Wars 2 got a 33. It’s the second worst.

      I tried to like the game because, frankly, I do like Com2uS. But, man, they just don’t seem to get the idea of pay-to-play balance… or they don’t care. It’s likely the latter.

      The game’s only selling point is that it’s cute. So are the Smurfs. So is Snoopy. Those games have better balance. Hell, so does the Simpsons Tapped Out.

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