And so to The Sandbox, a rather interesting little app for iOS that’s as much art project as it is a game. It’s, eh… hard to describe, actually.
If I absolutely had to sum up The Sandbox in two words, I’d say: 2D Minecraft. Of sorts. Okay, that was four words. Shut up.
The aim in The Sandbox is to, er, mess around with elements (everything is made up of individual pixels, incidentally) and create stuff. It’s fairly open, hence the name.
The Sandbox’s story mode takes you through the basics. For example, adding water to soil creates mud, while sand can be created by eroding stone; sand turns into glass when overheated; glass is impervious to acid, and so on.
There’s also the sun to consider, as well as temperature, light, and weather. Of course, you can create your own rain with steam.
As things progress, The Sandbox gets a little crazy. In particular, I’m thinking of the musical note element, allowing users to compose little melodies. One guy has gone and programmed a tune from Super Mario. Insane.
Which reminds me; one of the most interesting things about The Sandbox is checking out what other people are doing. In the Gallery, you can check out Hot Worlds, Top Worlds (in terms of rating), New Worlds, and Most Played. You’re free to load them on your own iDevice and do whatever the hell you like with them.
Being a free app, there is – surprise, surprise – a freemium element to consider in The Sandbox. Unfortunately, it’s one of the most frustrating examples of freemium nonsense I’ve seen to date.
See, elements cost mana. You can earn mana by playing through The Sandbox’s Story Mode, however there inevitably comes a point where you can’t afford the latest elements – which are vital for progression.
The solution? Well, you’re awarded fresh mana each day, so you can sit and twiddle your thumbs in the meantime. Or you can aim for some of the goals (spill oil in the sea, grow 300 trees, incinerate a forest…). Alas, the mana rewards are relatively small.
Of course, you can always pay Great British pounds to speed things along. The Basic Elements Pack is £4.99, while mana packs start at 69p (going all the way up to £6.99 for a Huge Mana Pack).
Freemium stuff aside, The Sandbox is great, but be prepared for a lot of frustration. Finding yourself utterly handicapped while playing through the Story Mode is not fun.
- Fairly open-ended
- Story Mode is fun (while you can afford it)
- Other people’s stuff
- The freemium element
- Occasional crashes
- Game Center stuff appears to be broked
Summary: The Sandbox is a fairly open-ended game inviting you to, well, do whatever the hell you want.
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Requires iOS 4.0 or later.
Price: free @ App Store