Living Classics review

Living Classics is a new literary-themed Facebook game from Amazon.com’s new Amazon Game Studios development arm. The game was announced and launched yesterday, but Amazon has been hiring for the new studio since May of last year.

Living Classics is what Amazon describes as a “moving object game.” In practice, this is similar in execution to a hidden object game, but instead of finding arbitrary objects from a checklist, players must scour the screen for any objects that are animating and click on them as quickly as possible to build up a combo bonus. Not all objects that the player must find animate from the beginning of the level, and those which do are randomly determined with each new play session, meaning that the player cannot rely so much on their own memory as in more traditional hidden object titles.

The game’s levels are based around various literary works, beginning with Alice in Wonderland and working through more generic “themed” stages (Ancient Greece, Haunted House, Pirate Adventures) on the way to The Wizard of Oz. Each “book” contains four stages, two of which may be unlocked using soft currency, one of which is tied to a related quest (that usually involves the expenditure of soft currency and the game’s social currency of hearts) and the last of which is a “premium scene” only accessible in exchange for the game’s hard currency.

Progression through the game is measured in several ways. Firstly, the player has an experience level, which is primarily used to restore energy on every level up, but also unlocks access to various consumable powerups over time. Secondly, the game’s plot tasks the player with finding several hidden foxes in each of the books, with a small hard currency reward when they have all been found. Thirdly, each individual level within a book has a cumulative “crown” rating according to the player’s total score across all attempts. The player may earn up to four crowns on each scene, with some quests requiring that the player achieve a certain crown rating on a specific level. As with most hidden object games, however, crowns are more a measure of persistence than actual skill.

The game encourages regular, daily engagement through a system that measures the “happiness” of the foxes that have been found. Before all foxes in a book have been located, each one that has been successfully uncovered displays a gradually-diminishing “happiness bar” and must be placated with a cookie each in order to keep them satisfied, otherwise the player risks them run away again. Players may also visit their friends’ “libraries” and placate their foxes with cookies once per day — doing so rewards the visiting player with a single social currency heart item. These are generally used during the quests to unlock the third scene in each book.

Living Classics is a good-looking game with quality graphics, sound and animation — for a company with the resources of Amazon, nothing less should be expected — but the gameplay feels a little directionless at times. While there is a sense of progression as the player unlocks new books and finds the missing foxes, it’s difficult to shake the feeling that the game feels like a selection of disparate mechanics (hidden object scenes, quests, managing happiness) that have been mashed together in the hope of creating something coherent rather than something that has been carefully crafted to provide an immersive experience. Regular nag screens to invite and “help” friends, send gifts, share achievements and top up energy bars certainly won’t make any new converts to the social gaming fold, either — though these are, by now, an accepted part of the experience for those who are already engaged with this type of game.

Living Classics is an encouraging start for Amazon’s new development studio, though more as a sign of the company’s potential than for being a particularly great game in its own right. The “moving object” mechanic is an interesting twist on the conventions of the hidden object genre, but ultimately it’s not quite enough to make this a “must-play” game. Instead, it will be one to keep an eye on over time to determine if Amazon is able to attract and retain users.

As a newly-launched title, Living Classics does not yet have any user figures listed on our traffic tracking service AppData. Check back shortly to follow its progress by MAU and DAU figures as well as audience breakdowns and user retention data.

Wait

An encouraging first step for Amazon into the digital gaming space, but the game itself could be a little more coherent.