Okay, I’m going to start my review of Geo Gods (Free) by covering some similar ground to Jared’s Game of the Week write-up for the game. It really can’t be avoided sometimes, and this is one of those cases. I could talk about this game without talking about its creator, Arnold Rauers. It’s not that it can’t stand on its own, because it certainly can. But before I get into the nitty-gritty of the game itself, I have some things to say about this developer’s accomplishments in a general sense. I will get to the game, I promise. Indulge your pal Shaun.
In pretty much every culture there is the concept of the “one-hit wonder". Lou Bega. Dexys Midnight Runners. Los Del Rio. The Tokens. These are all musicians, but you can apply it to other art forms. It’s a term of light mockery, relegating such creators to the annals of trivia for the crime of only making one amazing thing. The absolute absurdity of it only became apparent to me as I got older. Stepping up to the plate of creation and sending that cultural ball flying out of the park even once is more than most of us will ever manage. So what if a person only pulls it off once? Wow, you only made Take On Me. Ridiculous.
It’s ridiculous precisely because making something great, even once, is hard. Like, stupid hard. You have to have a great idea, you have to do the work to bring the great idea to fruition, and you probably need more than your fair share of support and luck along the way. If you’re missing any of those things, there’s a very good chance the rest is going to fall apart on you. So yes, if someone makes one awesome thing, I absolutely tip my hat to them. Without all of those “one hit wonders", the world would be a lot less interesting. The App Store in particular would be in rough shape, because some of the best games in the history of iOS were one-offs. Either the developer moved on, or nothing else quite landed the same way.
So, Arnold Rauers. TiNYTOUCHTALES, if we want to use the official developer name. I know not whence Rauers came, in terms of game development. As TiNYTOUCHTALES, he hit the ground running with the phenomenal Card Crawl. Perfectly suited to mobile, and a game I can still fire up and have a really good time with. Simple enough for anyone to pick up in a game or two, but complex enough to keep you playing for years. Card Thief was another piece of brilliant work, and very much unlike Card Crawl in terms of design and rules. Miracle Merchant, perhaps his most approachable game of all, and once again completely different. Even the games that didn’t quite hit as well as those, ENYO and Maze Machina, show a remarkable amount of ingenuity in their design while carrying forward what I can only assume are the basic principles by which Rauers works. Hey, where did Gnomitaire go? Well, no matter.
It would not have been unusual for Rauers to have disappeared after Card Crawl, but he kept on making more mobile games and steadfastly refused to retread old ground. It has not ruined him, as far as I can tell. Certainly not in terms of the quality of his games. I have eight folders on my phone dedicated solely to the works of single publishers: Radiangames, Simogo, Butterscotch Shenanigans, Michael Brough, Quantum Sheep, SEGA, Square Enix, and TiNYTOUCHTALES. It is the most minor of honors, but it is the one I have to offer. I do not need to know anything about a new game from any of these parties before buying it. They have my utmost trust.
Geo Gods is probably not going to have the same pick-up as Card Crawl or Miracle Merchant, but I might end up being completely wrong. I hope I am. As upfront experiences go, this is certainly on the more complex end of Rauers’ works. It doesn’t take too long to learn how to play, but it does take some effort to learn how to play in a satisfying way. The basic idea here is that you are planting a garden of gods. I don’t know either, but let’s roll with it. You’ll do this by placing gods in each of the spaces on the game board, with the game ending when you’ve either filled up the board or run out of the Mana Gems you need to play your gods. Your aim is to rack up as high of a score as possible, with that score resulting from a wide array of complex interactions.
Bordering the board are Power Crystals, each attuned to a specific element. They’ll apply their elements to spaces on the board, with the result being that each hex space has one to four marks on it associated with them. Sigh. This is already getting hard to explain. Let’s go back to Mana Gems and the gods. Each turn you’ll be presented with three god cards drawn from three piles. You can pick one of the three to play, and where you can play them is determined by the Mana Gem that is up at the moment. It will have a number from one to four, and that will determine which spaces are open to play a god on. One is for one elemental mark, two is for two marks, and so on. Each of the gods has their own point value, and they’ll also have an ability of some kind. These abilities can be very beneficial or troublesome depending on how you use them, so you can’t just fire them out carelessly.
Playing gods will also count down the numbers on the Power Crystals. When they reach zero, that Crystal is unlocked and will give you an additional point bonus. Unlock them all in a game and you’ll get a huge boost. So you’ll want to have that sub-goal in the back of your mind as you play, keeping some degree of balance in the elements of the gods you throw out there so as to unlock each of the Power Crystals. But it’s just as important to focus on the gods you’re playing and how their abilities will interact with each other, because that is where the real gold is found points-wise. Each turn you’ll be given three fresh cards, but you can lock one of them if you feel like. You can also pass a turn, but you’ll reduce the value of the current Mana Gem the first time you do so and shatter it if you do it again. This of course puts you at risk of running out of Mana Gems before you’ve filled the board. You have to be careful with these moves, but they too interact with some god abilities.
Simply putting up one good score isn’t enough, either. You have to play six rounds of the game, after which your average score will be taken as your high score. With all of the variables at play, there are plenty of opportunities to find your way to new highs with smart strategy or a bit of dumb luck. You can also find your way to a low score if you lack both. Geo Gods is a game where you really need to think carefully about each card you play, where you play it, and what is around it. At the same time, there isn’t a whole lot of push back for playing badly. You’ll get a low score, but that’s the only real penalty. I think this might be the part of the game that isn’t as strong as some previous Rauer efforts, as the lack of clear and immediate feedback about how the player is doing might cause some players who are less motivated to become disinterested.
As Jared also mentioned in his write-up, however, Geo Gods is free to try out. You can more or less play the whole game as much as you want, allowing you to get a feel for whether or not it is for you. There is an IAP you can purchase, and it will unlock some extra cards and features. If you like the game, you’ll want to buy it. It’s a meager $4.99 in US dollars, which is more than fair for how much you can get from this game if it gets its claws into you. I guess I should also mention the presentation. It’s nice. Looks decent, and it’s quite functional. Rauers always handles this well, so it’s not very surprising he’s pulled it off again here.
Geo Gods is another clever game from a developer who is now holding a full hand of them. It takes a little more effort to come to grips with than some of the other TiNYTOUCHTALES games, and there is the usual strong random element at play that will occasionally mess with you, but such is life. The important thing is that this is a game that keeps on growing as you put more time into it, flourishing like the garden it depicts. It’s more than worth the investment to learn for all the entertainment it will offer you in the long run.