In October last year I wrote about a game called Mandrake Boys. The game has a very simple basis, you essentially grow plants (the boys) and with each plant you unlock stories and really gorgeous pictures. Since writing my review, I’ve been absolutely hooked on the game, logging in multiple times a day to look at my plant boys. So when it was announced a side game called ‘Mandrake Town’ was released on IoS (having been released on Android in April), I was pretty pumped to expand my Mandrake universe. However, I gotta admit, the Mandrake Town game has been a rather disappointing expansion and an overall frustrating experience.
After allowing the 160 MB game to install on my phone I was taken to a character creation screen. It was pretty much to design a little mandrake based on myself with hair, clothes and personality options. Then came the frustrating bit, where I had to choose my player name and my town’s name. Now the issue here was that only after you put in the town’s name do you get the error message for ‘name in use’. So I assumed the issue was with my town’s name not with my player name. After 20 minutes of continually changing my town name I contacted support who were also a little confused on the issue but said to add numbers at the end. Now, I eventually worked out that this was referring to my player name, and I may just been absolutely stupid during those 20 minutes, but surely a games set up should be fool proof? I was lucky enough that the name ‘Stef’ was free, but I can’t imagine how weird it would be playing a game where all the characters referred to be as Steph1209 or something.
The actual story of the game is rather reminiscent of Animal Crossing. You come to a town and are immediately put in charge. The Mandrake Town has been devastated by a storm and its up to you to help rebuild it. After you’ve clicked through dialogue options you’re essentially taken through the longest tutorial known to man. Well, the tutorial kind of blends into a story but mainly feels like a tutorial. There are over 200 ‘tutorial’ steps and god it gets tedious. I just want to explore and build my town at my own pace, not having to answer to the continuous character bubbles that appear on the side demanding that I open another factory or upgrade town hall to progress.On another issue, It doesn’t really show on the screenshots I’ve included, but the text is really bloody small. To the point that I felt my eyes straining to read it on my iPhone. I ended up re-downloading the app on my Dad’s iPad which helped.
The game also employs a gacha summoning system. At the moment there aren’t many character to summon using tickets – only 10 characters, but you can buy specific characters for 200+ stars. For each character you ‘plant’ you can fulfil their requests to level them up, and receive special rewards like being able to buy their outfit at the clothes shop or unlocking an illustration. Here lies my biggest disappointment with the game – the illustrations are so weird! It’s like the mandrake surrounded by a holographic background, seriously they couldn’t have designed a proper garden background to go around them. It’s so different from the gorgeous detailed illustrations you can find in Mandrake boys.
The game also includes a few unique features such as being able to visit friend’s towns, collecting dandelions for prizes and also the hot dog mini game. Now, the hot dog mini game is a cute idea on the surface but it’s actually super hard to play. Once you’ve fed your first person, in a split second you need to have tapped on the next hot dog for the second person, otherwise it’s game over. The highest I’ve managed to get is 15 points, there’s no time to think it’s pretty much just based on reaction. I’m kind of unsure if I like the game or not, on one hand it’s nice to have something challenging but on the other hand I don’t know if it suits the ‘relaxing’ atmosphere this game is trying to portray.
If you’ve gotten this far into the review, you can probably guess I’m not very impressed by this game. It pretty much had all the tools to have been a great game, but the mechanics make it a really tedious experience. The interface can be quite confusing and while there’s a massive tutorial on how to craft items and level up mandrakes there’s nothing on how to navigate the menus. The range of mandrakes you can plant without using too many stars is pretty small, and I can’t imagine investing more than a few hours into this game at most. I’m just disappointed, Mandrake Boys was such a great experience, it was truly a ‘healing time’ for me throughout the day. Mandrake Town on the other hand has been frustrating, filled with eye strain and disappointment.