So, being the kind of lucky chap who occasionally gets emails from companies asking if I’d like to try out their new games, I recently had a message from the folks over at Playdek. You know them, of course, as the people behind the rather splendid iOS ports of titles such as Summoner Wars, Ascension as well as plenty of others including a certain game that has long been in the works: Agricola. I seem to recall seeing it first announced well over eighteen months ago – there were certainly logos plastered over the Playdek booth at Essen 2011 – and since then gamers have been clamouring for it. There have been complaints aplenty about the amount of time it’s taken for the game to come out, about the apparent lack of communication from the company about the progress of development but now – finally – it’s here.
And bugger me sideways, it’s bloody good.
Hanno Girke of Lookout Games, the original publishers of the analogue version of Agricola,has said that they’d “rather see the game late and great than early and crappy” – and in all honesty, it’s been worth the wait. My only experience so far is of playing it on an iPhone 5 though the game is universal, meaning it’ll play on any iOS device. I reckon it’ll be a little easier to play on an iPad or a Mini – after all, the screens are larger, but it works very well indeed even on a machine with a smaller amount of space to work with. Menus are clear and easy to navigate, and everything oozes the graphic style of Agricola.
You’re presented with options for both offline and online play. Of course, as the game is only just out there’s not a huge amount of people playing online but you know that the numbers are going to go through the roof in the next twenty-four hours. Because of that, most of my experience has been in offline play against AI players (who offer a decent challenge, especially on the highest of the three levels) but I think I’ll probably get the most out of the Solo Series game mode. This one sets you up against the system as you attempt to score more and more points game after game – complete seven games in a row and you’ll rightfully claim the title of King or Queen of Agricola, fail to hit the required target and the series ends immediately. I love a score attack mode and having it in the digital version of one of my favourite games ever is a truly great thing. No more setting up for a quick blast – just fire up the iPhone and away you go.
(Holy crap… that means I can play this on the bus! This gets better and better!)
Actually playing the game is super simple – there are excellent full tutorials to run you through the game if you’re a newbie, while a quicker one gets you to grips with the control system. You use a drag and drop method to claim spaces on the board (as well as cook up animals, build fences… all the usual farm-related stuff you’d expect) and everything you collect is represented across the bottom of your screen via a row of icons. One thing I’d like to have seen in the game is the ability to switch permanently between the (admittedly cute) graphics and spaces like you get in the regular version (you know, the written word ones) – you can tap the question mark icon in the top left corner to bring up the labelled spaces so it’s far from a massive pain. There’s probably something in the options that I haven’t stumbled across yet – or if not, can we have that in an update please?
iOS Agricola comes bundled with the E-deck occupation and minor improvement cards with plans laid in for new decks including I and K (the ones you get in the base set) to come later in the year for 69p / 99c each. Though a few people have expressed discontent with this – seriously, they have, but some people will bitch about anything – there is a HUGE amount of gameplay in this app. Whether you’re a long-time fan of the game or completely new to it, Playdek’s take on this modern classic is well worth adding to your collection. If you’ve only got an iPhone, sure, it can be a bit fiddly but I still wholeheartedly recommend it. If you’ve got anything bigger, this should be sitting on your front page until the battery no longer holds a charge.
Agricola is available on all iOS platforms and will set you back £3.99 in the UK and $6.99 if you’re in the US. Playdek provided me with a promo code in advance, but seriously – I’d have bought it anyway. And if you fancy a game, add me – I’m idlemichael, and I will farm you into oblivion.