I am now feverishly tapping away on my iPhone digging a home for a Gnome called Hairy. You don’t get to pick his name and I don’t know why he’s called Hairy. I guess it must be the beard. Presumably all Gnomes are called Hairy then. Gnome Homes is an iOS title from mobile developer Inert Soap.
It’s a free to play game with micro-transactions and I’ve spent more than a few days with my 6 year old daughter playing it. She certainly liked it a lot more than I did and she certainly seemed to understand what was going on a lot more than I did.
Gnome Homes sees you initially digging a burrow to house Hairy after his Mother announces that it is time for him to leave home. It’s tough being a gnome. The lengthy tutorial stage walks you through the steps needed to set up a home with a couple of rooms, a chair and a bed. Add more beds and you can invite other Gnomes to move in with you. You’ll also have to manage resources such as water and plants and leaves and pets and mushrooms and oh does the list go on.
Like a 2D version of those Facebook ‘Ville games, you earn different types of currencies. The one you want to earn is acorns. You’ll never have enough of those. You’ll earn a few for completing missions, like collecting water from the well, or picking the leaves off dandelions. Tap on the well when it’s ready to give you a drop of water and with an excited “I’ll get that!” Hairy will very slowly trundle off from wherever he is to fetch a drop of water.
The games looped soundtrack consists of a twee mandolin tune that probably sounds like a Mumford and Sons B side, if I’d ever heard a Mumford and Sons B side; and if there was still such a thing as a B side. You can of course turn it down, or better still turn it off. The fact that Hairy’s voice is more Joe Pasquale than Brian Blessed will also have you reaching for that mute button.
A lot of time is spent waiting for things to grow before you can move on. There are little timer bars showing you that there are 4 real time minutes left until a mushroom grows for example. As with the majority of these games, this is where that in-game currency comes in as you can spend them to complete the mushroom growing, or any other tasks that you are too impatient to wait for, instantly. If I am honest some of the timings for the tasks are a little long in comparison to other games in the freemium market
As I mentioned earlier, there are in game micro-transactions that allow you to purchase more acorns. One hundred will cost you about 70p, 1200 will cost you around £7. So not hugely expensive, it’s all down to how much you enjoy playing or how much time you have available to play it. As with all games that follow this model, as the player, you are either time rich or money rich and it’s up to you how you want to play it. It’s not cheating to pay for acorns, there are no advantages other than the game is quicker to progress.
After a while you start seeing the benefits of playing this title on the iPad. As you gain more and more tasks to complete the screen on the iPhone quickly becomes cluttered and less responsive. This makes the time to complete a task even longer and in frustration I was very tempted to purchase more acorns just so I could finish building that bed for my new flatmate.
In conclusion it’s not a terrible game, and with the exception of a little bit of lag it’s perfectly stable, it’s never actually crashed and my daughter really likes it. Personally I think that that my daughter is the target market but for me, it is a boring game, one that purposely drags its heels, only too keen to speed up if you shell out for some acorns.
With so many freemium titles on the market where the flow and speed of the game isn’t affected by not purchasing in game currency, a game that feels like that it deliberately handicaps itself in this way until you hand over cold hard cash leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Or it’s all those dandelion leaves.
MLG Rating: 4/10 Platform: iOS Release Date: 31/10/2012
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Gnome Homes for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of 2 weeks on an iPhone. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.