Mar 20, 2013

[Games] The Sandbox (Android)

I was looking for a somewhat more casual game to indulge in given a large number of my installed games tend to be more cerebral strategy games. And I'm not sure why I thought this might be a casual game based on the title - or maybe it just reminded me of older god simulation games like Populous and Black & White, but on a much smaller (in this case mobile) scale.

And I'll be frank - I'm totally enjoying the game and just wish that I had more mana to keep on playing!

The Sandbox is pretty much a physics simulator presented as a god game of sorts. It was created by Pixowl Games and BulkyPix for various platforms including iOS and Android. This review covers the Android version of the game.

As you follow the story, you slowly unlock access to various elements such was water, stone and fire in order to complete the initial goals. For example you can break down stone with water through erosion, and thus you unlock sand. Or at its most basic you can add water to soil and you end up with mud.

Initially you just learn to manipulate the various elements and see how they interact. And as the story mode progresses, the challenges become more interesting such as the need to light up a dormant volcano or create enough clouds to trigger a lightning storm.

The game is delightfully intelligent and I can see this being used as an educational tool in the long term. The game does rely on decently sound physics principals as we heat sand to create glass or simulate the entire water cycle from evaporation to snow coming back down.

But then the challenges get even geekier as you use the various elements at your disposal to complete some very specific goals. Thus we have players powering a battery with acid or create a distillation system with the tools provided. And yes, the geek in me totally enjoyed these challenges and it made for some great game moments.

And if these challenges are not your thing, you can go to the Free Mode (once you unlock it) and pretty much create whatever you want. And thus you it truly does become a little sandbox where you have all the powers of a geek god at your disposal. Thus you can create little virtual terrariums using elements like water, oil, electricity, power, mud and whatever. And I have to admit, the term "element" may be rather generous in terms of what the scope covers.

Add in the pixel art aesthetic, and you have a quaint little game to explore and enjoy. Sure, the games mana system helps control your progress and forces you to log in regularly or perhaps participate in the game's various support actions to unlock bonus energy and such. But it's totally worth the experience.

The Sandbox is a nice game and for me it feels casual, but I'll admit it may not be casual for everyone. But the sandbox mode is certainly fun and open and it makes for a lot of potential indeed. The game gets a solid 4 ingenious geeky challenges out of a possible 5. I just wish there were more than 30 free levels. Now I have to contemplate purchasing additional ones!
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