Storybook Anytime, a privately owned company focused around the education and literacy of children has a Facebook game of curious premise called Reef Life. One part virtual world, one part Monopoly, and one part exploration, this app takes a number of different game play mechanics and consolidates them all into one unique idea.
You are a small little fish that apparently fell overboard while on a Caribbean cruise. Finding yourself alone in a massive reef, you are taken in by the “Reef Whale,” Ronald Trout. From here on, he acts as your mentor, giving you various tasks to complete as you learn about the game itself and increase your overall net worth.
In its most basic form, the game is like any other virtual world. You explore areas, visit friends, and build up your own personal space. There are 27 different areas to visit, each with their own stores and residents. Unfortunately, until you get more friends to play with you, the number of people, or fish rather, available to visit is rather… limited. Nonetheless, as you explore the areas, you can pick up starfish to earn coins and various recyclable bottles (which can be traded in for more coins). The downside, though, is that this is a bit boring after a while because there is nothing really to see – beyond your various friends randomly placed as colorful fish – until people start moving in.
Once you do have friends playing, however, the game improves dramatically. In fact, the improvement is two-fold. Not only will there be people to visit and interact with (i.e. doing things like cleaning a friend’s bowl) but the board game prospect of the game becomes more prominent. Players, travel around the reef using a sort of board game-like over world and clicking on various locations. However, every couple of minutes, players can “Spin” a wheel that will automatically move your fish around the board. When you land on a special location (i.e. “Trout Towers”) you might get something useful for free, but as for the other places, you can rent them for a specified amount of time and get a percentage of all purchases made from that location.
It is an interesting way to make coin in such a game, to be sure – the whole concept of investment, that is – and really adds a sense of economic strategy to the game, but it is a double-edged sword. Frankly, the biggest annoyance found within the game was the simple fact that one has to travel from spot to spot to buy the items desired. To get furniture, one has to go to Location A, to get clothing, Location B, to get accessories, Location C, and so on. Furthermore, you have to click a locator button to see what stores are where, but have to turn it off to actually visit them. Granted, that is minor, but the whole process comes off as irritating considering that virtually any social game incorporating personal spaces allows you to purchase items from within your home.
Nevertheless, Reef Life is an interesting game in the sense that it is very different from most of the titles currently circulating Facebook. Its potential as a virtual world is great, despite usability issues, and its investment concept is truly an interesting one. As it stands, the game seems to be growing gradually, but with some tweaks here and there, that rate could possibly increase.
The game has been slowing growing to nearly 24,000 users so far, according to AppData.