Youda Survivor Review

A shipwrecked sailor has a turn of positive luck when he winds up on an island where the natives are expecting the arrival of a legendary chosen one at just such a time. Still, the indigenous population isn’t entirely sure our plucky young hero is really the one they’re keeping an eye out for, so the village elder decides to put him through a few tests — time and resource management tests, that is! If the player can help him make it through this, he or she will become a true Youda Survivor (Out Now, $4.99 IAP) in this depth-packed title brought to us by Youda Games and G5 Entertainment!

If you’re already a fan of a certain Alawar-published title that came out in September, you’ll be quite familiar with the drill here. Youda’s hero may not have access to top-of-the-line cake production plants as Farm Frenzy 3’s heroine did, but he’ll still be churning out juicy omelets, coconut treats, and other sundries the natives survive on using indigenous technology. Once again, the player gets just a few minutes to transform that first watering hole into an impressive food factory, with efficient performance incentivized by more in-game cash for equipment upgrades. These aspects of Youda’s formula are just as enticing as they were when they appeared in Farm Frenzy 3, but does Youda have enough of a unique flair to stand out on its own in the App Store?

The developers can give themselves a pat on the back, because the answer to that question is “yes” in my opinion. Central to the Youda experience is a stamina and hydration system; the poor hero can only take so much machine building, god-appeasing tribal dances, and the plain old sun beating down on him before he wears out and faints, in which case it’s Game Over. To prevent that, the player has to siphon off some of the hard-earned eggs, meats, and powders stored in inventory to create health-replenishing potions. Just when the player thinks he or she has a fine balance going, chances are a pirate ship will appear on the horizon to rain on the parade! Truth is, this is the whole reason why the natives have devoted some time to grooming the hero — they expect him to swashbuckle with the invaders constantly sailing in to steal animals and snarl the island’s food chain. I was incredibly excited when this first happened, but for better or worse, the pirate fights are analogs of Farm Frenzy 3’s predator entrapment system: the player repeatedly taps on the pirates to send them off the gangplank, albeit at a significant stamina cost.

I said it in the Farm Frenzy 3 review and I’ll say it again — there’s some genre mashup gold to be mined in this style of time management game. Imagine a third-person shooter interface or some Infinity Blade mechanics suddenly popping up when enemies encroach on the player’s carefully managed territory, or even going full-on Ravenmark to defend your farmlands in a Turn-Based Strategy interlude. C’mon, iOS devs, I know one of you has to be adventurous enough to try this sometime!

Kooky digressions aside, I’m also impressed with Youda’s branching world map system. Taking the scenic route nets the player additional in-game cash and “tribal marks,” which are basically equipment pieces that make survival easier — a shield reduces the amount of stamina needed to fight pirates, while a good pair of clogs lets the player tackle swift-moving but edible crabs for stamina bonuses. The further the player forges into the island’s interior, the more complex Youda becomes, with different weather effects, night vs. day levels, and even diving segments that stop the game clock while the player forages for extra food underwater.

Youda loses out to Farm Frenzy 3 in the interface department. Smaller game objects like eggs and health pickups can take a few taps to collect, and menus aren’t perfectly reliable either. It’s not so severe that time and resource management fans won’t forgive it considering the game’s astounding depth, but it’s still a design concern in a genre where every fraction of a second counts. I found I had better luck picking things up if I held at the touchscreen for a split second before releasing. Also, it’s entirely possible my misgivings here are restricted to the smaller iDevices.

Youda sports impressive voice acting for cutscenes sprinkled throughout the campaign. On the audio downside there’s not much musical range, and there’s just something about stereotypically tropical steel drums that wears thin quickly for me. It’s also too bad the hero doesn’t actually appear onscreen during missions — shovels dig for watering holes under some invisible influence, and pirates appear to spar with the air. I can’t even count the number of levels spread across the game’s overworld map, so genre fans should expect at least ten hours of time management challenge packed into this one!

iFanzine Verdict: Assisted by a great stamina system, Youda Survivor offers fans of time and resource management a compelling challenge with tons of content and plenty of depth. The interface could use a once-over to improve sensitivity of game objects on the smaller iDevices though.