LUSYO Entertainment has released Pocket Land, their debut title featuring puzzling, strategic, and grid-based world design. LUSYO boasts that we will be able to create our own sandbox world by shaping the landscape as we see fit. As nature takes its puzzling course, trees and mountains eventually form, which provides mankind with the wood and rocks needed to help jump-start society. Is Pocket Land the pint-sized proof that LUSYO is the new player.. err, developer in town? Or would we rather just go outside and watch some grass grow?
First and foremost, I must start off by stating that Pocket Land is an incomplete and unfinished game as of this review's publication. There is a lot of serious updating and patching required of Pocket Land, which has yet to be addressed on its main Facebook page. As of right now, LUSYO has started the race limping. My research into LUYSO shows that there has been open beta-testing for Pocket Land that has been going on for a few weeks prior to its release. Unfortunately, it seems as if no one has taken the time to address a core, fundamental aspect of gameplay: does it work? What does work in Pocket Land is rather unique and addictive. But you will hit the ceiling relatively quickly and realize that there isn't much else to do except master the puzzle mechanics of tree-making.
The premise of Pocket Land is both complex and simple: you must place types of land down onto the grid in order to promote a healthy world population. At first, you are only able to place blocks of seeded dirt. Placing two blocks of the same type together will cause them to combine and evolve, e.g., placing two seeded dirt blocks next to each other will result in a grass block. The trick to this mechanic is that the blocks culminate and dissolve onto the last block placed to create the evolved piece; placing two seeded dirt blocks next to each other will result in both pieces combining into a grass block where the last dirt block was placed.
You must build upon this concept and have grass pieces ended up right next to each other to combine and create a shrub tile. Again, the shrub will only form where the last grass piece was formed. Two shrubs then form a tree. All the while, you had to have strategically placing these land pieces in order to provide an almost perfect domino effect where each group breaks down until you have the two shrubs next to each other to form the tree.
Once a tree forms, you then are able to place other types of ground tiles, such as rock and water tiles, which each require a form of currency you only gain through the creation of advanced tiles, mainly trees and mountains (from rocks, obviously).
You are able to chop down trees to yield lumber, and mountains in order to gain stone. But herein lies Pocket Land's principle flaw: you can't use any of the stone or lumber supplies to build anything. I'm guessing there must have been some sort of upgrade that was meant to be unlocked once you started reeling in lumber and stone supplies, but nothing was unlocked for me throughout hours of gameplay. I found myself having numerous trees on the screen, many of them chopped, with nothing else to do. I never had enough currency to build many rock or water formations (due to the limited currency you gain), so again, there was nothing else to do.
Another major problem that exists within Pocket Land is that there is hardly any type of help or tutorial to tell you what you must do. At first, there was a tutorial which shortly explained the grass-building mechanic, but that was it. Even worse, these tutorials were a one-time deal; I saw it once, and never again. If I were to let a friend borrow my iPad, they wouldn't have a clue how to play Pocket Land, even if they started a new game, which will frequently happen. As a result, there has to be a help/tutorial screen added into Pocket Land's title menu in the future.
Pocket Land advertises building a world and creating your own society, but it is broken and poorly designed (with nearly ZERO guidance), that I found myself touching every icon on my screen hoping that some sort of menu would pop-up so I can actually build something. But alas, I built nothing but mountains and trees throughout my hours of playtime.
Pocket Land has some great puzzle/strategic core gameplay but horribly suffers due to its lack of tutorials and unintended ceiling effect. The trailers and promotional pictures of Pocket Land showcase building huts and building up to castles with moats, but I did not see ANY of these things throughout any of my encounters with this title. The fact that a broken game actually costs money to play tells me that LUSYO was extremely overambitious in regards to their debut, and did not take the time to think of what the actual players would think or experience.
I cannot recommend Pocket Land to any fans of strategy or puzzle titles since it is still very unfinished. Its music was catchy, its graphics were decent, but it is not user-friendly and building a castle (which is advertised on the title screen), seems impossible. I tried scrolling throughout the ground types and tapping every resource icon, but unless there was some weird secret that I'm missing out on, Pocket Land is an incomplete product. The only reason why it scored above a 1.0/10 was because its core mechanics were actually enjoyable. There are numerous other strategy and puzzle-based iOS games, many of them are free-to-play and are actually playable.