Ngmoco’s GodFinger Shines on the iPad

Ngmoco’s Black and White style game,GodFinger has gotten a lot of attention on the iPhone. Sadly, it’s not available in the United States — except on the iPad. Here’s our review.

The point of the app is what the name suggests: Build a planet, using touch controls on the device. At the start of the game, players are granted a barren wasteland of an earth and a single, sullen unbeliever. Considering your entire planet is a desert, the poor guy is wishing for rain, as indicated by a graphical icon above his head. From here, users touch a floating rain cloud, drag it over to him, and it’s time for miracles.

It’s very simple, but gratifying, as one makes it rain by pressing and holding the cloud as it charges up your deity powers. You release a torrent of refreshing water with quick downward releases. Oh, but this is only the beginning. Two things happen when you bring the rain. First off, it turns your unbeliever into follower in which you can now pick him up by his heels and drop him at the nearest shrine to worship you (more on that in a second). Secondly, as the rain comes down, the ground becomes more and more sodden and lush as plants and trees begin to grow.

The more you make it rain, the wetter and greener the ground turns. This directly effects the type of environment that sprouts around the saturated area. Very little rain will produce an arid domain, while a deluge of it will create a lush, tropical environment. Furthermore, as your entire virtual space is a whole planet (which you can scroll around, sort of like how it is done in EA’s Spore), you can make quite a wide variety.

This is where the worship comes back into play. Players have a finite amount of mana. For every miracle they perform, a small amount is consumed. It will regenerate slowly over time, but as you place worshippers at one of your shrines it returns faster.

Of course, in order to build shrines, or anything for that matter, your followers need to work to construct it, then work it to make money. The basic example is farming. You drop X amount of followers onto a farm and they work the day away, requiring you to water it with some rain from time to time. As time goes on, however, they will slowly drain away in energy and you’ll have to create some campfires, fountains, and so on to get them recharged and back to work, thus creating a nice mechanic of balancing which followers are working, resting, worshiping, or building.

Eventually, the player will also get other god powers, such as controlling the sun (which also grows flowers in watered areas), upgraded structures that produce more gold and hold more followers, and even some classic lighting striking. Of course, this is a bit less benevolent in the sense that it is used to strike down those pesky skeletons that tend to wander about and attack your worshippers. Oh, and if you’re feeling cruel, you can smite your followers as well!

As the user completes all the duties of a god, they will gradually gain more experience, and in turn, new levels, which earns more followers, more powers, and even a bigger planet.

What makes GodFinger even better is that the game is completely free to play. The primary monetization for the app is a virtual currency called Awe Points. Users get small amounts as they level up in the game, but in order to buy some of the cooler items and abilities, like making your dead followers come back to life, mana refills, or buying large sums of gold, Awe is a requirement. As such, it can be purchased within the app itself for $3.99, $9.99, and $29.99; expensive yes, but considering you probably just bought an iPad, that’s probably peanuts anyway.

Socially, the game is also connected to the Plus+ social platform. This of course means that the game comes with a truck load of achievements to fulfill and various leaderboards to top. However, it is the more subtle social elements that come to mind that make things more memorable. For example, you can not only post in-game successes to your Facebook feed via Facebook Connect, but can even name each of your followers using your iPad’s contact list. Moreover, as more of your friends play and grow their godly prowess, they will take over desolate planets within an actual GodFinger universe.

Granted, this is technically no different than the leaderboards in a Facebook game, but being able to pinch zoom outward and see a galaxy of friends is much cooler. The touch interface on iPad’s 9.7-inch screen is a uniquely better experience for the game compared to what web and mobile games can typically provide.

Overall, GodFinger is a fantastic game on all fronts. If there was any one thing particularly lacking, it would be that there isn’t a whole lot to do if you want to be a cruel god early on. Either way, as a free game, this is easily a smart “buy.” The title is a beautiful mix of casual and social features, allowing users to play asynchronously together in short bursts of time, or much longer (especially if they have some cash to spend).

Suffice to say, GodFinger comes highly recommended.

Publish date: April 29, 2010 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT