On your first look at Snoopy's Street Fair [Free], you'll probably feel a warm glow of nostalgia. It might be for Charles Schulz' classic Peanuts comic strip or television specials like A Charlie Brown Christmas. But you also might be thinking of something a little more recent. Like, say Beeline Interactive's big hit, Smurfs' Village [Free].
The apps have a lot in common, you see. Both of them are fantastic at bringing back the properties we know and love. Both flawlessly emulate the look of the classics. Both are missing a few key features. And both are cripplingly tied into IAP and grinding mechanics.
Snoopy's Street Fair does a particularly good job of cranking up the nostalgia machine. As you build up your street fair to help Charlie Brown go to the baseball tournament, you'll be flooded with memories. The game is filled with familiar sound bites that were either pulled from the Peanuts TV specials or are excellent impersonations. All manner of beloved characters pop up -- Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Woodstock, Peppermint Patty, Linus, Lucy and a huge roster of B, C and D-listers.
But more than that, nostalgic features are peppered throughout the experience. As you level up, you unlock classic comic strips that you can go back and read freely. After unlocking a certain item, you can take Peanuts photobooth pictures and send them to your friends. There are Snoopy trading cards to collect. These sweet little Easter eggs really elevate Snoopy's Street Fair to something occasionally special.
It's almost enough to make you want to use the app to, say, introduce the Peanuts gang to your kids. I'd recommend against it. To its credit, Beeline Interactive does a very good job of pointing out that the IAP costs real money, and warning players that there are real world purchases to be made. But that hasn't stopped the developer from making this game's argument for IAP very compelling. You can earn everything in-game, it seems, but it would take an extremely long time. You only earn a couple Snoopy Dollars each level, and many of the items and characters can only be bought with them -- for 20, 50, even 75 Snoopy Dollars a pop. The minimum purchase is 50 for $4.99, so be prepared to dig deep.
This wouldn't be so irritating if the game surrounding the IAP was more compelling. I've fallen in love with a few freemium games with simple grinding mechanics, but this one is just a bit too brainless. You can tap each of the stalls and features of your fair once in a while - 30 seconds, 24 hours, or somewhere in between. You get coins and experience when you do, and occasionally random rewards pop out to try to hit the part of our psyche that loves that kind of thing. The grinding is oversimplified, as is the decorating. It's all just rather bland.
There are a few mini-games that round out the experience, but they're pricey and straightforward. You can twist lemons for lemonade, or marshmallows for campfire roasting, and you can play with paints. But you can only do these things occasionally, because you could otherwise earn too much experience or have some kind of fun.
Rounding out the flaws, on the other hand, are a pair of familiar issues. While Snoopy's Street Fair lets you add Game Center friends, it doesn't have any other Game Center integration. Worse, it doesn't make any attempt to save your progress to the cloud. Delete the app for any reason and you'll have to start over from scratch. It's a bad call for a game with its hands so deep in your pockets.
If Snoopy's Street Fair is a game for nostalgic adults, it's not interesting enough to hold any attention. If it's a game for children, the aggressive focus on IAP is distasteful. Still, if you have fond memories of Charlie Brown and crew, it's worth your time to poke around briefly and see what charm this game has to offer. Just don't get sucked in -- unlike Peanuts, wine, or cheese, Snoopy's Street Fair doesn't get better with age.
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