HungryAge: social game or series of dinosaur minigames? Both, actually. Is it fun? Not really.

At the core of most social games is a currency. Something players earn when they do well, something they use to buy in-game items, and something that can be bought with real money so that the developers can fix the broken armrest on their golden sofa. Meat and conch shells are the currency here, with conch shells being what you buy with cold, hard, cash. Before I started playing, I promised myself I wouldn’t be spending a dime to see how much fun the game actually was, if any.

Arguably the biggest part of HungryAge is the side-scrolling “tower defense” game. Your character (a caveman) is on one side, defending pieces of meat, as big, bad dinosaurs lumber over to snap up the morsel. Protect the meat, and you get to spend it later. You do this by chucking a series of weapons at the attacking monstrosities. Tap where you want to throw, hold to power up, and release at the right time to smack the dinos away. At the core, it works, but the in-app purchases rear their ugly heads very early on here. The game dedicates the first few levels to introducing the weapons, but by the time you have covered all of the tutorials, the game yanks the special weapons back and gives you three of each, leaving you with only the default rocks as your fallback. Not three per round, THREE AND THAT IS IT!

As you probably guessed, you can restock the limited weapons by buying more with meat at the shop, and getting them permanently requires conch shells. But even without these IAPs, the game is still ridiculously unfair. You’ll either get swamped with enemies (some even spawn directly in front of the meat), leaving you to, quite literally, chuck pebbles at T-Rexes. If the game feels generous, however, it will spawn bomb flowers on the field, which become more effective than a nuclear strike. One level even forces you to directly rely on the bomb flowers! In the end, (without IAPs) you’ll need to be best friends with Lady Luck to win.

Once you’ve gotten over the cheap “meat defense” game, your next stop will probably be the pet sim aspect. You get a baby dino at the start, which you try to level up (for various reasons) by feeding it, training it, etc. This being a social game, they shoot for the time-management mechanics by having the level-up items require a real-time cool-down in between uses (recharge instantly for only two million dollars!). You can keep your dino in a cave below your home and level it up there, or let other people take care of it by sending it to their corral.

Ah, the corral. You can take care of other people’s pets as your own, using some of the rechargeable items from before. Or you can quite literally kick them out (I was booting them like crazy). Why you would actually help out other people’s pets, however, remains to be seen. The corral actually turns out to be the biggest part of the game’s “social” aspect, and exploration of the other mechanics (send messages to other people, friend people, go to their corral and poison their pets, which messes with their stats) reveals them to be shallow and boring. The only real reward for any of this leveling up and sabotaging of other people’s dinosaurs only becomes apparent in the “Hunbawa Arena”.

The “Hunbawa Arena” (don’t laugh) is the other piece in the multiple personality known as HungryAge. Use your leveled up dino to fight other people’s pets, or bet meat on the fights between others. I never got to actually fight in the Arena (my game bugged out and stopped allowing me to connect to the network and retrieve my pet), but I did get to participate in the betting. It was slightly fun, if very unbalanced. They try to make it challenging by not showing the levels of the two dinos fighting, but the attempt is smothered by the game showing the win percentages of the respective owners. Betting on the one with the highest percentage never failed me, and I racked up a ton of meat in almost no time. So much for challenge.

As far as the overall presentation goes, there’s nothing to report. The graphics are slightly behind the “retina age”, and the sounds and music get old after a while. The overall lack of basic polish is what grabbed my attention the most, though. Terrible grammar usage (“You will earn meat when play game”), frame rate lag, crashing, and several game-breaking bugs (like the above one that wouldn’t let me get my dino back) are some of the muck you’ll deal with. Keep in mind, this was on a new iPad 2; I couldn’t even reach the menu on my iTouch 4G.

In Conclusion

HungryAge is a schizophrenic. It can’t decide between social game, pet sim, side-scrolling tower defense, or dino fighter. In shooting for all of them, it falls flat on its face. The addition of required (they don’t come out and say it, but they are required) in-app purchases, are just a slap in the player’s face, and the game-breaking bugs I encountered were the final blow for me. I won’t be playing HungryAge again, and I recommend you don’t start.