iPad Game Review: Jack of All Tribes HD

It used to be so simple to categorize so-called ‘casual games’. Trivial time wasters, like a Match-3 puzzler like Bejeweled, or other fun little games like Zuma or Peggle. Or there were hidden object games or puzzles that would last a couple of hours. But suddenly we have a game where we need to gather resources, build and upgrade bases, stave off invading forces, meet objectives from quest-givers and time constraints … and suddenly you realize that Jack of All Tribes is NOT your ordinary casual game!

The Hype:
Travel to the past with Jack and rule a prehistoric tribe in this fun time management game with puzzle elements! Help fellow tribesmen set up their homes and create thriving villages. Keep villagers happy with food, drinks and entertainment; protect them from natural disasters and aggressive barbarians. Introduce new technology and become friends with the chief’s beautiful daughter. Find artifacts from the future to help Jack return to his time. Help the lovable tribesmen prosper and master your time management and task prioritizing skills in this charming and challenging game!

40 Mesmerizing levels
12 Types of buildings to construct
18 Artifacts to collect
Fascinating storyline
Original gameplay
Game Center Support
Support of multitasking with iOS 4.2

The Reality:
At the start of Jack of All Tribes jack finds himself flung back in time where he is taken as a chief who can help others settle their problems. He gets aided by the young and beautiful Rainbow to find his way through the world.

From the very beginning this game feels more like a RTS (real-time strategy) or ‘city builder’ than a ‘casual’ time-management game. Certainly there are levels and time constraints, and whether or not you get a time bonus depends on meeting a target time – those are all time management game qualities.

But you are gathering up resources like wood and gold in order to build and upgrade huts and houses. As you build and upgrade you get more gold to allow you to further develop to meet the needs of the villagers. This includes cutting down trees, making a woodsman hut and a theater and a pig pen and a bath house and even a nice little area for dinosaur rides! These are all traits of a RTS or ‘city builder’ game.

But the game is also handled in a ‘city builder’-like manner in that the villagers have needs you are responsible for meeting, but cannot do so at the expense of achieving your goals. Each area needs something significant, whether it is help with housing or crop production or dealing with enemies who will steal your wood and destroy homes!

The controls are simple and straightforward – you tap on a house to build, tap on a tree to chop it down, tap on a house again to upgrade, and so on. If your villagers are hungry, tap the cauldron to send them to eat. If they need entertainment, tap the dinosaur or theater or bath to send them on their way.

The only difference is when enemy raiders attack – you get exclamation marks as they approach, and after the third one they arrive. You tap on them quickly to scare them off – but if you are too slow they regain confidence and keep charging. They require time and can steal resources – so it is important to deal with them quickly – and to have a dinosaur if possible since it will scare off enemies for you.

The way the timer system works, you need to make sure that you are doing exactly what is required and nothing more in order to get a bonus time award, which will net you a trophy! You can always go back and maximize gold or happiness or production later.

Each area requires you to learn new things and make use of what you have learned before, and there are many times when you will find it challenging to reach the goals in the allotted time even when focusing on all the right things. To help, along the way you can discover hidden chests (not TOO hidden) containing items that will allow you to do things like put out fires more quickly and so on. They are very helpful and make a huge difference.

The one inconsistency that I found was that some of the trophies were very explicit on requirements, but others were more murky. As a result there was more backtracking to different areas to try to gain trophies than was necessary.

The final thing to mention is that this is a HUGE game! There are 40 areas, each of which will take a minimum of 15 minutes including cutscenes, retries and so on. That puts this game at close to 10 hours – which is HUGE for a ‘casual’ game at this price!

As the iPad game market matures, we are starting to see more and more games crossing genres and offering depth and gameplay that appeals to all sorts of gamers. Jack of All Tribes is such a game – it is a high quality experience, a huge game, and offers features that will appeal to just about every kind of gamer!

Here is a trailer for Jack of All Tribes HD:

Review: Jack of All Tribes HD

Where to Buy: iTunes App Store

Price: $6.99

What I Like: Engaging characters; loads of challenges; surprising depth; keeps you coming back for more!

What Needs Improvement: Requirements not clearly noted for all trophies

Source: Review code provided by publisher

Categories: Gaming, Reviews

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