Had you told me a few weeks ago that I would soon be spending an inordinate amount of my time playing a Facebook game on my iPhone, I would have laughed in your face — for such is my disdain for all things Facebook, Farmville and Farmville-similar.
But that would have been before getting my hands on Buddy Rush.
To be fair, Buddy Rush has nothing to do with Farmville, apart from the both of them being games on Facebook, and that I have been investing more time than I should into it, much the same as I have seen people do playing Farmville … Grr.
Buddy Rush is a cross-platform, casual role-playing game, in which players select one of several classes and venture out into the world to complete missions. Missions can be taken solo, but a wiser strategy is to recruit help from your friends.
If your Facebook friends are also on the Buddy Rush wagon, and if your characters are of roughly equivalent experience levels, you can invite up to two of your friends’ characters to tag along on your excursions as AI-controlled party members. There is no experience bonus for completing missions solo, and no penalty for sharing the love with your friends, so you only win by taking your buddies along. Sweetening the deal, your buddies also receive experience when you take them out, and your character(s) receive bonus experience when joining your friends’ adventures. It’s a lovely little You Scratch My Back, And I’ll Scratch Yours scenario, and it’s wonderfully addictive.
Gameplay breaks down simply. You outfit your character with equipment won in battle, rewarded for misison completions or gifted by friends. You can carry a limited amount of restorative items into missions. You gather your friends, accept a mission and win experience points for finishing it.
Out on missions, you tap where you want to walk, tap enemies to attack them, and tap objects to interact. In addition to your character’s standard attack, each character gains three active skills and one passive skill as they level-up; these skills are used to improve your odds in combat, and different character classes have different skill sets.
The missions themselves are often linear, but vary in objective. Mission types often require that you travel to a specific goal, slay a number of enemies, gather items, or defend an area from attack. Some missions do present opportunity for more open exploration, while others will walk you in a set path from beginning to end.
Taking a missions costs one stamina point, of which your character has three. Stamina points recover over real-world time; if you run out of stamina, you’ll be ready to rush again when you return to the game a few hours later. You may also use stamina potions to take on extra missions, but using these potions will lengthen the downtime before stamina recovers naturally.
Missions may be mastered by completing them three times. Mastering missions will earn your character a skill point to be spent improving their skills, and also will cause the mastered mission to be replaced by a more difficult version offering a higher amount of experience points for completion. Mastering missions is therefore very important to improving your character.
Buddy Rush is disarmingly charming. Whether friend or foe, characters are adorably designed and animated. The world itself is diverse and vibrant, with plenty to see. Buddy Rush is easily one of the prettiest 3D games on the app store, and totally kid-friendly too. While I typically shy away from Facebook-driven games, even I was lured in by the game’s artistic direction.
Seven character types are available to play, though only three — the Worrier (Warrior), Boorseye (Archer) and Wizz (Wizard) — are accessible without in-app purchase. New players begin the game with two free character slots.
The social aspects of the game are handled well. Your buddies gain experience when they tag along on your adventures, and you gain experience when they take your characters out on their missions. Items may be gifted to or received from friends as well, which is cool, especially as some items are only usable by specific character types which you may not have.
Inventory is limited, but shared amongst all of your characters. This means that items found by one character may be used by another if you have more than one. You can also off-load inventory into another character’s backpack to open up storage slots.
One of my favorite things about Buddy Rush, though, is that your data is synced to the server. The game may be played on your iPhone, iPad or in your desktop browser on Facebook, and your characters will be up-to-date no matter where you access them from. Cloud-synced saved games are the future of gaming, and something Apple really needs to begin supporting via Game Center. It’s ridiculous to have the same game installed on your iPhone and iPad, for example, but for your data to be separate so that you cannot continue your adventures from one device to the other. Buddy Rush manages data via Facebook, allowing all of your devices to handshake. Awesome!
As you might expect from a Facebook game, there is an in-game marketplace that runs on real-world currency. Shop items are purchased by spending Potato Chips; these chips cannot be won in-game, and must be purchased with cold, hard cash. Luckily, shop items are not mandatory to enjoy the game; as a kindness, basic items and equipment are found or awarded in missions. Items available in the shop include additional potion packs, inventory and backpack expansions, and additional character slots.
Purchased character slots provide access to the game’s other four classes, the dual-wielding Aikilu, the ronin swordsman Nagne, the exotic Vivich or the morbid princess Botherella.
Be careful, though: character slots are not permanent. As I learned the hard way, deleting a character removes both the character and the slot — even the two free slots the game starts you off with. It will cost you potato chips to acquire a new slot for another character.
My personal favorites are Nagne and Vivich. Nagne learns some devastating sword attacks as he levels-up. Vivich is — I think — the game’s cutest character, and has a versatile skill set. Her first skill is a powerful attack spell capable of damaging groups of opponents, while her other skills are geared towards healing and protecting the party, making her a valuable ally for your friends to include on their adventures (which earns you additional experience).
Sadly, you cannot take your own extra character out as party members. I do wish the game offered more options for solo play. Luckily, if none of your friends are playing Buddy Rush, the game provides you with two AI companions, and will locate other players for you which can be friended.
While I usually shy away from social games, especially those Facebook-driven, Buddy Rush is undeniably fun. Early adopters are being awarded 40 Golden Chips for free, which is enough to buy two additional character slots (with access to all character classes) or a single character slot and an inventory expansion.
The iPhone verison of the game costs $0.99, but Buddy Rush may be played on Facebook for free at http://www.facebook.com/buddyrush. And today (February 17) only, the game is free in conjunction with FAAD, so get it while you can!
Buddy Rush [$0.99] is published by Company 100 Inc. Reviewed at version 1.0 on an iPhone 4.