Botkin’s Hidden Cove is a new Facebook game from Disney Playdom. The title showed up as the No. 16 top gainer by MAU on our roundup earlier this week and currently has 650,000 monthly active users.
Botkin’s Hidden Cove provides a combination of citybuilding and exploration-based gameplay. The player is told that an evil witch doctor has kidnapped all the animals, and it’s up to them to save the trapped critters. This is achieved by using “machete” items to destroy jungle tiles until a trapped animal is located, and then building up their settlement’s “town score” by building structures and decorations until the creature feels safe enough to move in. Once this happens, they become a “helper,” allowing the player to perform more actions at the same time.
Botkin’s Hidden Cove doesn’t use an energy system, which makes it immediately a lot more friendly and fun to those people who are typically turned off by this sort of progress throttling. It does, however, make regular use of friend-gating and “ask your friends for these resources” dialog windows, which somewhat undermines the bold step of ditching energy. Many tasks also take long periods of real time to complete, too, though these may be hurried either using hard currency or a “food” resource that can be collected through farming.
The game is sound and perfectly playable, but a few internal inconsistencies grate a little. For example, when building a new structure, players will often be tasked with finding or asking their friends for basic resources like stone and bamboo. In many other games of this type, collecting a “stone” resource is a simple matter of clearing stone-themed debris such as rocks and boulders scattered around the landscape. For some inexplicable reason, clearing a rock in Botkin’s Hidden Cove only provides the player with wood, however, making the acquisition of resources immensely frustrating for those playing solo or unable to convince their friends to join them.
Where the game does shine — for the most part, anyway — is in its presentation. While the background music is somewhat repetitive and dull after a while, the visual style is excellent, featuring characters that wouldn’t look out of place in a Disney animated feature and a distinctive, sharp and clear art style for the background art. Where the graphics stumble a little is in certain aspects of the animation — rather than rendering a unique animation for performing actions when using certain objects such as a watering can, for example, the characters instead display a generic “using item” animation with the object they are using clumsily overlaid on top. It’s a little disappointing to see this with the otherwise good quality of the art.
Botkin’s Hidden Cove has plenty of monetization avenues, even without an energy system implemented. Clearing the jungle requires “machete” resources, for example, which are sometimes provided at the start of quests but otherwise must be either purchased with hard currency or manufactured one at a time using a very slow 24-hour process. Similarly, the resources required to complete certain buildings may be purchased with hard currency — this is all but essential for those who are playing solo, since there are relatively few opportunities to acquire these items through normal play. That said, there’s relatively little fun to be had in playing this game solo, so those unable to convince friends to join them will likely simply give up at the first friend gate or resource barrier.
The trouble with Botkin’s Hidden Cove is that it doesn’t really do enough to distinguish itself from other similar Facebook titles. The citybuilding component has very little depth, simply requiring players to slap down buildings haphazardly wherever they have space, and the jungle exploration part is similarly shallow. Playing the game gives the distinct impression that Playdom wanted to create a game featuring the thrill of jungle exploration and the comfort of coming back to a “home base” of the player’s own construction, but neither part feels well enough fleshed out to make it a particularly satisfying experience to play. There’s a solid foundation here that will hopefully improve over time, but this title is far from “must-play” status right now.
Has potential to be an interesting game, but simply isn’t quite there yet.