Set Sail for Ngmoco’s Adventure Bay on iPad & iPhone

With its series of “We” games – We CityWe RuleWe Doodle, and We Farm – social, mobile developer Ngmoco has been doing well for itself on the iDevice platforms. Now it has another, more recent title crawling up the Apple app charts: Adventure Bay, for both the iPhone and iPad.

As a virtual space game coupled with exploration and collection mechanics, Adventure Bay takes a number of more familiar elements and spins them in a much more interesting fashion than the norm. But from quests to pirates, it’s also a slow-paced game that relies heavily on friends to enhance its more unique aspects.

Players begin as a pirate who is off to create a pirate island. Like most virtual space apps, the basics consist of filling one’s island with décor and earning income. The latter ought to be familiar, as the primary means is, you guessed it, farming. Players plant “plantations” and sow seeds that will grow over the course of anywhere from 10 seconds to a few days. Many of the buildings will produce periodic income as well.

Actually, this was a bit of a surprise, as the game never actually states that buildings will do this before they are built. What’s more noticeable is the appearance of people with every structure placed. While many virtual space games (namely city-builders) have been improved by making their spaces feel more alive with people moving about, Ngmoco makes that life and motion a reward. Each type of structure has a type of resident, and the more that are in place, the more populated the island becomes.

There is some function to this as well, for many of the more expensive buildings will produce special characters, called “Heroes,” that will join the user’s pirate crew. These are typically satirical characters such as a parrot, the ultra-buff “Tiny,” cliché adventurers, and so forth. Aside from adding a little bit of variety to the isle, these non-player characters also unlock quests for the player to accomplish.

This is where the exploration and collection elements begin to take a front seat. After some quirky quest text, players can embark on a journey that will take a set amount of time to complete. During the travel phase, a purchased virtual item dubbed “Spice” can expedite things, as well as a chance-based mechanic called a “gust of wind,” which does the same for free (so check back often). Once the user has arrived, they will complete the quest, but also be given a chance to explore the island in which it took place.

Presented with a grid layout, players can move about the spaces to investigate their surroundings. As they move, all adjacent grid spaces will be revealed, which could contain treasure, obstacles, enemies, or nothing at all. Moving on top of treasure spaces, defeating enemies, or smashing obstacles will reveal loot, which can be collected in sets and exchanged for various rewards such as money, decorative items, experience, and so on.

The catch to this exploration is that players have a finite number of moves that they can make when exploring an island. Each action requires a move point. In order to increase this number, the first thing to do is upgrade one’s ship, but the better way is to get friends involved.

This is where the social play begins to take off, as friends can come and provide extra gusts of wind to shorten one’s travel time, thus increasing the total moves available. This is a two-way street, because once you have helped a friend, you will be eligible to receive a “Mystery Chest” reward that will wash up on your island. While it may contain helpful goodies, it will only appear once the friend you helped completes their quest. Players can also visit one another’s islands and place orders from each others’ buildings to earn some extra income. These are more lucrative ways of earning revenue, but the job must be accepted by the other user for the order to actually finish.