Going by the tag line — “IncrediLand: Breed with your friends” — players might not pick up on the depth of the real-world genetics rules that underscore the core design of this exceptional game. In Incrediland**, you attempt to breed, hatch, and raise your own “Incredimals” to compete in contests of sport (and to use as further breeding stock).
Players begin with the giraffe-like gambi. A thorough tutorial leads the player through incubating eggs, training hatchlings in the nursery, the care of adults, and how to pick and choose traits for breeding. The process for further species – the flea-like zorg and mammoth-like boon – is the same. Mastering one masters all. But each Incredimal is different and this is where real-world genetics comes into play.
Each Incredimal’s genotype and phenotype (as well as basic strength, speed and intelligence) are visible from any screen that shows the Incredimal or a paper-doll of said creature. As the most important information in the game this is never more than a click away. There are five coat colors, in order of dominance: green, yellow, blue, red and black. This remains consistent regardless of species. Three different types of fur exist for each species with three levels of dominance; the final characteristic varies – horn length for gambi, number of eyes for zorg, and the presence (or not) of a nasal horn for boon. This results in 30 different sub-species of each, not taking into account breeding for gender or basic stats. The only way to achieve all 90 sub-species is to breed the Incredimals, using real-world genetic principles. Edutainment developers, please take note.
Information for a breeder (and later a competitor in sport) is everything. With a trace system (ability to search for any Incredimal across the entire player set), care and feeding mechanic for Incredimals at all stages of growth, auction and sales ability, tournaments, ladders, and tribes (friends), the movement between different menus and UI could have been arduous at best; a game-killer at worst. But, like the genetic information on each Incredimal that is available from anywhere, the differing systems are tied together seamlessly. A player can be feeding an Incredimal from island mode and decide to place the Incredimal for sale. These are not simple links to different systems within the game, but full integration of the various systems with menus and UIs characteristic to the play space.
Monetization is achieved using a novel approach, new for this space. Players can choose a gold subscription account that opens more breeding rooms, allows unlimited viewing of tribe members’ breeding stock, and the purchase of rare eggs. Additional subscriptions rates include microcurrency.
Players who choose not to subscribe begin with 100 Incredicoins, and adult gambit, and an egg. Only two Incredimals can be bred at a time and the ability to see the genotype of tribe members’ Incredimals is limited to three times a day. Breeding is done purely based upon phenotypical presentation. The most important restriction, particularly in concert with the limited phenotypical views, disallows the purchase of rare eggs. The creatures must be bred.
Currency is earned once the egg matures into a hatchling. In the nursery, the Incredimal can be trained to do a series of tricks. The cost to train a trick varies significantly – and more than one trick can be trained – but the monies can be recouped as each creature can do up to three known tricks per day. Players also earn currency for feeding their Incredimals.
Until tournaments are implemented, training an Incredimal is the single largest expense in the game. The second is purchasing eggs. Breeding is a fickle process. There is no guarantee two Incredimals will breed and it takes time before one knows if the nesting process has even started. Purchasing eggs is a great way to jumpstart this process.
It is difficult to impart just how polished Incrediland is just a few days out of launch: the aforementioned multiple pathways to information; tooltips that server to extend the tutorial; a complete FAQ that is both useful and concise; and active attended support forums. Every Incredimal has its own theme song, unique idle animations, unique tricks, different foods (some slurp, some burp), the music for courting is different than that for mating… I could go on.
IncrediLand is a rare title. It is funny, thoughtful, balanced, and well-executed. It will not topple a Cityville or Pet Society as the audience it will attract will be far too discerning and too niche. The rewards that come with breeding Incredimals are often two-three breeding cycles away before the desired results are even possible. This is the game for those who derive enjoyment from a more delayed gratification, intellectual skill, and interaction with like-minded individuals.
**This link offers an additional 200 Incredicoins for a total of 300.