In Search of Treasure Madness on Facebook

Not too long ago, we took a look at Zynga’s new hit game Treasure Isle. It turned out to be a pretty decent game, combining virtual, personal spaces and treasure hunting. However, the latter half was accused by many commenters of being a clone of an older app’s main focus, and so we decided to take a look at zSlide’s 2.4 million monthly active user title, Treasure Madness.

As the title suggests, the game is all about treasure hunting. Players get maps of uncharted islands – evidentially in the Caribbean – and must dig them up in search of treasure. Grid space by grid space, users dig up the sections of each island earning gold, experience, and the occasional treasure. As you’d expect, each item found is added to a sort of achievement section aptly dubbed “Treasures.“ That section displays all of your findings, as well as what you might still need, and whatever it is your friends are also currently looking for.

Instead of energy, health is the cost of searching for treasure, with each form of searching (digging, mining, diving, etc.) costing a different amount. As players level up, the different tools needed to employ such methods become available for a hefty price, and include diving equipment for searching underwater, or boots for trekking through swamps. However, something interesting — that Treasure Isle does not have — is that some items have improved versions of themselves that can be used for lower health costs.

Unfortunately, the only example of this unlocked for us at the moment is a better shovel, but even this only saves one health point per dig, making the benefit almost moot. Frankly, it’s just easier to eat the different fruits – which regain health – that one digs up while exploring.

In addition to the various items that can be found amongst these treasure littered isles players are also able to “dig up” a multitude of mini-games that must be played in order to earn rewards. Ironic that Treasure Isle copied the hunting aspect of Madness, as each of the mini-games are something we have all seen before elsewhere. This includes match three games, memory, a Dr. Mario-type game, and a bunch more that most users will have likely played on Yahoo or MSN games at some point.

What makes these a bit different, however, is that as they are found and played, users can gain ranks in each one, leveling up a sort of title (i.e. Novice) as they get better. Of course, the faster one completes a mini-game, the more points they get towards that new level. Nevertheless, one has to actually find that game first in order to play and level within it. Thankfully, one can spend a small amount of health to randomly get a different one.

Another element to Treasure Madness worth mentioning is that the developers certainly take the time to add new content in tandem with real world events (currently, there are still Easter maps available for purchase and exploration). Furthermore, for each new feature they add, the app has a blog-like home page that explains the new feature and allows users to provide feedback with a simple click on either “Love It” or “Hate It.”

Beyond these, players also get access to yet another set of mini-games within the “Gold Rush” section of the title. Limited to every eight hours, users can play simple games – such as “The Path of Fear,” which has players using their mouse to grab gold nuggets while avoiding creepy hands – to earn a sizable chunk of change.

This is where Treasure Madness and Treasure Isle truly begin to differentiate themselves. Whereas Madness focuses heavily on mini-games, Isle takes the gold players earn and lets them decorate their own virtual island. In Madness, all gold is really used for is more maps and equipment. This, in turn, allows the player to earn more gold and treasure, which is then once again used to buy more maps and equipment. Essentially, it becomes an endless cycle with no real feeling of accomplishment and reward.

In the case of Zynga’s app, or any other virtual space app for that matter, there is something truly gratifying about watching a place you call “home” (so-to-speak) grow and become more extravagant. It’s a means of self-expression and a visible reward that you can see and show off.

For the record, Treasure Madness is a pretty decent game. With an MAU count over 2 million, that is evidence enough. But with a lack of visible rewards, its longevity doesn’t feel quite as strong. That said, yes, Zynga did make use of Madness’ core treasure hunting mechanics, almost down to the exact tools needed to explore, but the virtual space offered in the newer title is just so much more gratifying. It’s hard to say just what Treasure Madness needs, without suggesting something that’s already be done to death, but as it stands, mini-games will just only stretch so far.