In my younger years, I would often look through the ads in the back of games magazines, goggle-eyed at all the niche import games and weird pieces of hardware that, living in a very small town, I would never, ever have a chance to find in a local store. Ads were a liittle different back then, which was likely a result of the primitive nature of game graphics, and they had a tendency to, shall we say, oversell the concept in slightly misleading ways. If you had an active imagination, it was all too easy to read one of these ads and conjure up something in your mind that was far more entertaining than the reality. I'm sure we can all rifle off a variety of examples, but for me, one of the worst was the Barcode Battler.

This was a little handheld device that seemed to promise limitless entertainment. The idea was that you could scan in any barcode, and it would create a hero, weapon, or item. After scanning in a few codes, you could then set these warriors against each other in battle to see who would come out on top. Collect barcodes! Create your own heroes! It even came with some cards with pictures of various characters on them.

barcodeSuddenly, a trip to the grocery store with mom would become an exciting adventure to find the ultimate fighter. What kind of hero would come from a box of Corn Pops? Would my action figures make for powerful virtual battlers? The visions I had in my head from this concept were quite lofty. I was so enamored with the notion that I paid little heed to the fact that the screen of the device in the ad only showed numbers. After all, I was well-versed in RPGs by then, so I assumed that was just one type of display, a stats screen, perhaps.

Well, as far as I know, my parents made a solid go of trying to find one of these things, but it just never happened, and in hindsight, that was for the best. It turns out the Barcode Battler was a pretty big deal in Japan at one time, so I've had the chance, as an adult, to finally lay hands on that dream handheld. If I had received this as a coveted Christmas present back in the day, I probably would have been crushed. It really is just numbers versus numbers, and you have very little input on the battles themselves. I still, to this day, think the concept is a good one, though. Anyone who got into Monster Rancher on the PlayStation knows what I'm talking about. There's just something cool about the idea that a super-powerful, rare unit can be found just laying around your home for you, and only you, to find and utilize. It just needs to be fleshed out a lot more than it was on that simple device.

It's in those footsteps that Barcode Kingdom [$0.99] follows. The basic premise is the same: scan in barcodes to create warriors, weapons, and items that you can use in RPG-style battles. Naturally, since we're not playing on a cheap device from 1992 anymore, we get a graphical representation of everything. On top of that obvious advance, you aren't limited to single one-on-one battles, either. Instead, you make a party of warriors and march out on various missions, most of which involve fighting a group of monsters. You also have a castle that you must defend and level up to open up new areas. As you clear missions, you'll unlock new missions and earn experience points and gold, which can be used to level up your characters, gear, and characters. The game even has a multiplayer mode that allows you to attack another player's castle to try to steal away some gold, though they can also do the same to you.

barcode2There's no proper story to speak of, as near as I can tell. Missions have different names but still shake out to the same thing, more or less. You're going somewhere, killing some monsters, getting the spoils, and upgrading your stuff. The more you play, the more expensive those upgrades get, and you'll surely hit a point where your characters will have enough experience to level up, but you won't have the gold to do so. Resources get very tight very quickly, making the game feel like a real squeeze in the long run. Initially, things are cheap enough and rewards are plentiful enough that you'll really only feel the chafing from game's stamina system, referred to here as AP.

AP is required to do many things, most notably to scan barcodes. The other main way to use AP is to kill the travel timers for your questing parties. When you send a party out, depending on how far from the castle their destination is, a real-time timer will be set to account for travel time. Even nearby places take a couple of minutes, with farther places taking a lot longer. If you actually want to play, you'll probably have the urge to jog those timers along using your AP, which is great until it runs out. At that point, you have to wait for it to recharge if you need it again. It recovers at kind of an agonizingly slow rate, so if you do manage to extinguish your supply, you're better off just closing the game and coming back a while later.

Of course, if you really want to keep playing, you can just refill your AP using one of the game's three handy currencies. Yes, this game has three currencies, and for all intents and purposes, two of them are premium. Gold is earned pretty regularly through normal play, though as I mentioned earlier, after you get a ways into the game, the amount you earn is far out of proportion to your needs. You can also buy it with real money in the shop. Stone is used for upgrading weapons, and is extremely hard to come by through normal means. The easiest way to get ahold of it is to use the game's shop to trade AP potions for it, which are the third currency. AP potions can be used to refill your AP meter or traded for stone. You can buy AP potions in the game's shop for real money.

barcode1So, yes, this game is pretty much packed to the gills with all the worst kinds of monetization. It makes a great first impression because, let's face it, scanning up every barcode in the immediate vicinity to see the results is a pretty fun thing to do. Your guys are more than strong enough to get by in the early going, and you'll have enough gold to furnish your needs for a while. The stamina meter is annoying but after your initial rush of scanning things, it actually goes a fairly long way. The more you play, though, the more the game starts to squeeze, until you're left with something that's only marginally less annoying and pointless than Final Fantasy: All The Bravest [Free].

Playing deeper into the game also makes its limitations far more apparent. There are only a few types of units, a few types of monsters, and a few types of weapons and items. Sure, the stats vary depending on what you've scanned, but you'll quickly run out of new visual stimuli. What's here is nice enough, though nothing spectacular by any means. There are cute little characters carrying out animations and making exclamations through tiny word bubbles as they explode their enemies, colorful backgrounds, and even some half-hearted attempts at throwing in weather effects. The music is nice, if a little repetitive, which isn't a big problem since you won't ever be playing for very long at a time.

Chalk this one up as a great gimmick with decent execution where the fun ends up almost totally spoiled due to monetizing virtually every aspect of the game. You might get some enjoyment out of Barcode Kingdom if you treat it as something you take out and play for a few minutes when you're on coffee break, but even then, you're going to hit a point where progress gets so slow that it's no longer satisfying. Once the initial buzz of scouring your pantry for super rares wears off, there's not much left to Barcode Kingdom, and it does a great job in the long run of squashing even that. I'll grant that it's cheaper and more satisfying than a Barcode Battler and the novelty alone might be worth a buck, but there are countless free apps that will let you enjoy that same thrill and probably give you the same amount of enjoyment in the long run.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • CkX82

    Game of the week ?
    O_o

    • RampageDeluxe

      Yep, I bought it because of the gotw endorsement. I completely regret, even at a dollar.

      • LarryWP

        Me too, and then I got a refund. It never would scan and the store kicked in soon after playing, wanting cash. Piece of worthless trash.

      • CooleTeeps

        Me too

    • ImJPaul

      I think that just shows how bad of a week that week was for iOS gaming. Haha

    • Vestid

      It's all been downhill since Oceanhorn.

      • Design by Adrian

        There there, have you tried Monument Valley or Smash Hit?

  • ImJPaul

    I enjoyed scanning things, then my girlfriend stole my phone started scanning all of her nail polishes. Then I played the game and deleted it. A dollar well spent.

  • Ramaz1234

    Nice gotw lmao

  • TigerBoat

    Wow to get a 2.5 star review on TA this game must give you cancer and kill your pet dog. I was tempted to pick this up until I read the review.

    • Psac42

      But it was game of the week! ;)

      • DeLtAg1An9O

        Was

  • http://twitter.com/JaredTA Jared Nelson

    So I see people are still struggling with the concept of Game of the Week

    • C. Stubb

      In your Game of the Week article, you actually described Barcode Kingdom using the words "undeniably satisfying" and "worth checking out". It just seems a bit paradoxical to turn around and then give it a 2.5 star review.

      • anabolicMike

        Not the same guy is it? The guy who did the review isn't the guy who said those things during GoTW is it? Hmmmm. Anyway. I liked this game for the first little bit. Actually I played it til I got to about level 11. It kinda got boring around then :/. If they made it so scanning barcodes have you weapons like in diablo iii it would be cool. Hah but there's so little differences. It's like the beginning game is fun but then it just peters out to nothing. Hmmmmm. They lose it around inning 5

      • CStubb

        Indeed, the individual authors themselves are not the same. Though I would like to point out that the name of the title is "TouchArcade Game of the Week", not "Jared Nelson Game of the Week". This being a TouchArcade review, I would expect some sort of consistency to exist. I understand that each individual will form his own opinion, but to suggest that I am "struggling with the concept of Game of the Week" when, as a whole, TouchArcade itself is struggling with how it feels about Barcode Kingdoms is absurd.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        Read the comments above. We really can't win. This is a really neat game with a cool out of the box experience that doesn't have the longevity to stand up to the scrutiny of a full review. It's also a dollar. If fiddling around with it for a couple hours scanning random stuff wasn't a dollar's worth of fun for you, you probably should wait for full reviews on things before downloading them? It's very clear from the onset to anyone who actually reads the GOTW posts that the intention isn't "Here is objectively the definitive best game by every measure released this week."

        Instead, it's, "Oh hey this is really cool, people should know about this."

      • CStubb

        Thank you for that explanation. I apologise if it seemed as if I were hammering the Game of the Week or TouchArcade as a whole. For the record, that was not my goal.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        I'd use both of those phrases to describe this game. Wandering around scanning stuff and seeing what you get is undeniably satisfying and that mechanic alone makes it worth checking out.

        Why does the internet make me feel like I'm on crazy pills for thinking an app released in 2014, when almost everything has been done before and cloned at least once, that makes me say "Oh hey, this is really neat" is totally worth checking out?

      • http://twitter.com/JaredTA Jared Nelson

        Yes, and I still feel that way. However, in the very same paragraph, we say " the actual gameplay surrounding it isn't anything especially noteworthy." If you read the review above, it boils down to the barcode scanning being fun and neat (hence our pick for gotw) but the game surrounding it is very subpar (also mentioned in our gotw). So I'm not really sure how that's paradoxical?

      • CkX82

        How is it paradoxical that people would get confused over mixed messages ? When it comes down to it we're talking about a dollar, no biggie. It's just a little weird to give a gotw to something so medicore. I've noticed everytime people question a decision on this site they are regarded as being completely out of their mind, hopefully I wont be a victim of this. Listen, people freaking out about 99 cent apps waiting for them to go free is lame and "paradoxical" . But questioning two very different opinions on the same site is just interaction. But whatever, its just a dollar, who cares.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        The only mixed message here is coming from people who only read headlines and comments. Unfortunately, there's usually a big ol' block of text in between those two things that'd clear everything up if people just took the time to read it. :(

      • CkX82

        No need for sad face, we're all on the same team. I like/respect this site and the writers, I was just voicing my opinion.

      • Larni69

        I think the issue here is that a quick change of title would remove the confusion that is obviously still occurring. Why give it a mis leading title in the first place? Would a name change for the article really be so difficult?

      • bilboa

        If a whole several paragraphs, re-posted at the top of each GOTW post, explaining the meaning of GOTW doesn't clear up the confusion, then I doubt there's any title they could give it which would do so either. I think they just have to give most people credit for understanding the meaning of GOTW and accept that a few people will always complain.

      • http://twitter.com/JaredTA Jared Nelson

        It's not, that's what I'm saying. The GotW post stated this had a neat barcode scanning gimmick, but the underlying game was questionable. This review states the same.

      • CkX82

        *sigh*
        Ok then.

      • CStubb

        Being called the TouchArcade Game of the Week implies that a game has something good going for it. Out of all of the games released that week, the Game of the Week is, as you describe it, the "one".
        A 2.5 star review, however, does not send that same message.

      • http://twitter.com/JaredTA Jared Nelson

        "something good going for it" Yes, as we said, it's fun scanning codes. Exactly as we explained in the GotW post. I can not help it if you expected anything more from the game than what we wrote.

      • C. Stubb

        Touché. You expect these GotW picks to be controversial; consider this your due controversy.

        I would point out how you missed the thrust of my observation, but I know that you would only respond by saying how I miss the entire purpose of your GotW. So consider this my resignation.

      • http://twitter.com/JaredTA Jared Nelson

        The "thrust of your observation" was that giving a game GotW and then giving it a low review score was a paradox, which as you can see, it is not.

      • joaquin_ondamoon

        Perhaps the confusion lies in the title of 'Game of the Week', which despite the disclaimer, indicates that this is indeed the game to watch/play this week. It's not called 'Interesting Game Mechanic of the Week'.
        I mean, I read the GotW post and I was a bit surprised at the low review score this game received, even though I recalled the caveats in the original post. I know it's a matter of semantics, but if you changed the title of the post to something like 'Honorable Mention' , perhaps you'd get less grief and still be able to get your point across: that there's something worth checking out about the selected game.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        What's interesting is if you compare the traffic analytics of the GOTW posts to the number of people who seem to find themselves so hopelessly confused by what the article is that they leave a negative comment, we're talking 0.01% or less of our readers. I'm not sure that's grounds for changing things around, if we listened to the 0.01%, TouchArcade would be a very different and crazy web site.

  • worldcitizen1919

    Yes I was very surprised it got GOTW because its one of the worst rip offs ever on ios. I deleted it once I saw just how much it was trying to rip off. Will never play this again rest assured.

    • Jake7905

      Well, to be fair, there is a disclaimer posted with every GOTW pick stating that the choice doesn't represent the best game.

      • http://film-local.com Marcin Tasz

        I will say, that even though a disclaimer says it doesn't represent the "best" game, the title of "Game of the week" implies its not the crappiest game.

      • RampageDeluxe

        The wording "makes it worth owning" is the kicker here, implying its worth owning.

  • Jake7905

    Well, I guess this review proves that TA really doesn't give GOTW to the best game, as they've said all along.

  • coolpepper43

    This is completely f'd up. It's hard to trust TA now for calling this GOTW. I know the disclaimer but the game should at least be good.

  • Holcman

    Haha, I love how confused people are of GOTW. Don't worry, Toucharcade, I at least understand everything. You're not alone in your world of unique games and experiences.

    • try2bcool

      What bothers me is that WE know what Game of the Week has meant since the dawn of time, but TA has chosen, inexplicably, to change that meaning instead of coming up with a new term for what they are really trying to say about the title in question.
      Oh, yeah, and then blame US, for not getting it.

      You can't argue with hipster logic. After all, they think flappy bird is a great game.

  • Larni69

    Rather than calling the article 'Game of the Week' why not call it 'Rough Diamond', 'Hidden Treasure' or 'Niche Market'? Something more consistant with the tone of the article.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      I'm thinking instead I'm just going to release a Greasemonkey addon that lets people actively rename the Game of the Week in their browser to whatever weird title they need it to be including but not limited to "Best Pizza".

      • Luigi_Mario

        How about a tagline at the end of each post:

        "Warning: TouchArcade Game of the Week picks include shitty games."

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        The problem is the people who get mad about these things don't actually read the articles or they'd understand what Game of the Week is, so it needs to be in the title. Maybe your Greasemonkey custom title could be "Shit Game of the Week" so you can sleep at night?

      • Luigi_Mario

        That works.

      • CkX82

        Who says we're getting mad ? Well at least I know I'm not mad, it's really just another example of why its no use trying to interact or question anything on here. I'll sleep like a baby regardless of which gimmicky crappy app is your "Game if The Week".

      • coolpepper43

        I hope you release a renaming feature for your app also. Pizza of the week... Now you're making me hungry :D

      • araczynski

        Just call it 'interesting premise/mechanic of the week', it's neutral and indicative of something 'new' in the store. game of the week implies 'significant quality' which the vast majority of the games of the week here lack.

      • Vestid

        Please don't ever change it /popcorn

  • Papa Deuce

    I pretty much agreed 100% with this review.... In fact, it reminded me to delete this game.

  • coolpepper43

    Just call it "interesting game of the week"

  • Kugiro

    $0.99.....ZZzZZZZzZZzzz. Get over it. It was y'all's choice to make about spending the money. They didn't make you push the buy button.

  • XianZhuXuande

    To be fair, stone is recovered from the mine at the rate of one per character sent for four per run and the mine regularly reappears. Later, a second mine opens. It is definitely easy to get stone. The review is wrong here.

    AP potions, on the other hand, come from a daily challenge battle which may or may not be a nightmare for people who are playing with real-world barcodes. I'm not sure here as like others I assembled some best of class barcodes for characters and gear.

    Gold is actually one of the two areas in which the game falls apart. You just don't get enough, in later gameplay, to progress at even a semi-tolerable pace. There is a way to almost cheat extra gold out of the game, but even if you do that, you run into the problem below.

    Gameplay is repetitive. Send dudes somewhere to beat up monsters, close app, revisit later. Beat up monsters. Level up. Beat up slightly stronger monsters. Repeat.

    Oh, monsters. You can get one to help your party but this mechanic seems almost tacked on rather than well thought out and integrated.

    This could have been a gem, but in my opinion it is unpolished and was released before it was ready. And some mechanics need significant overhauls before this could be an excellent game.

    On a positive note, it sounds like the developer is interested in improving the game in the future.

  • dr.morton

    In the last couple of months I registered an increase in pre-review hype here. It's a common practice in the special interest magazine world. If you know that a product is not good but you're on good terms with the company (and want the adds), instead of writing a bad review you'll push the product with previews and fake anticipation.

  • Design by Adrian

    Hang on, real time waiting for a game you've paid for? Is this freemium or NOT freemium? It can't be both!

    • http://www.AppUnwrapper.com App Unwrapper

      It's both. Even the very busy forum thread fizzled out once everyone progressed enough to hit that wall. The only thing you end up having in abundance is stones...and since you end up stuck with a bunch of weapons/armor that won't sell off, you run out of room to even get new armor/weapons to upgrade with the stones (because you need precious gold for more slots). So many balance issues that force you to either pay up or just stop playing. It's really a shame.

      • Design by Adrian

        That is a shame. Barcode games still have potential!

  • Nycteris

    I played vigorously for a bit, then the novelty wore thin. I still think it has been more than $1 of fun. So, good novelty game.

  • profhuggybear

    Eli and Jared, how do you put up with these fools?

    For everyone complaining about this game and the naming convention of it, I have one thing to say to you. Stop, put your phone or pad down and walk outside.

    • CkX82

      Says the typing this on his iphone/tablet, who I bet isn't outside. Stop trying to be buddy buddy with them, its a website about ios games , not a friendfinder you kiss ass.

      • CkX82

        *says the guy*

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        Only in the bowels of internet comments would someone who is actually treating other people like humans be referred to as a "kiss ass."

      • CkX82

        Only on this site would the people who run it be so dumbfounded when readers question what is on here, and you think I'm the bowels of the internet? I ain't got nothin' on Tubgirl, Jack.

      • CkX82

        And telling people to essentially "get a life" as your new BFF has isnt exactly treating people nicely. But since hes sticking up for you I guess thats ok.

      • CkX82

        It's whatever I guess, just kinda disappointing really. Before the Flappy Bird bullshit that got old this was a fun site to read, I guess it still is I just know better then to "share with the group" unless im praising you guys. Any comment other than that and I'm a confused moron.

      • http://twitter.com/JaredTA Jared Nelson

        Hey, chin up fella. Nobody is calling you a confused moron. Read the comments. We are just pointing out that the GotW post contained almost the exact same sentiments as this review, as some people were saying otherwise and that simply isn't true. It's all just video games, not need to take it too seriously.

      • CkX82

        Oddly enough, your post made me feel better. Let the good times roll

Barcode Kingdom Reviewed by Shaun Musgrave on . Rating: 2.5