Freemium games have become a multimillion-dollar business, partly by draining lots of money from a small group of people. After the release of freemium movie tie-ins Hotel Transylvania Dash and The Mortal Instruments, Playfirst has moved further into the genre with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2: Foodimal Frenzy. Cloudy 2 takes advantage of the freemium model by draining money from anyone who wants to play it for more than five minutes at a time.
Cloudy 2 is a match-three game in the style of Puzzle Craft. Instead of the Bejeweled model of swapping two tiles to make a match of three or more, in Cloudy 2 you draw a line connecting foodimals, genetically modified food-anmial hybrids. Matches can be made left, right, up, down, or diagonally, which means you’ll rarely run out of moves. This mechanic is a welcome change from the tap-and-swap style that dominates the match-three category.
Visually, Cloudy 2 has the same cartoony style as the movie, with cute cheespiders (cheeseburger spiders) and anthropomorphic fruit and vegetables. The foodimals are expressive, crying when the timer begins to wind down, and panicking when there are available matches you haven’t played. The music manages to be repetitive without being annoying, though it doesn’t add much to the game.
There’s a great deal of content in Cloudy 2, with more promised. Three stages, with 16 levels apiece, have been released so far. Each level has three objectives to meet, and it’s possible to complete multiple objectives in one turn. But many of the objectives are incredibly difficult, especially since each level is only 60 seconds long. This forces you to buy boosts using in-game currency. All of this challenging content would normally make for a great experience, but in Cloudy 2 it’s simply frustrating, due to the irritating battery system.
Batteries are the in-game energy units, and it costs one battery to play a 60-second level. Each battery takes 30 minutes to recharge, and you can have no more than five free batteries at a time. So, unless you are willing to buy more batteries, you can’t play Cloudy 2 for more than five minutes every few hours.
There is nothing to do while you wait for your batteries to recharge, so you literally have to go do something else, or cough up money for more turns. This makes it incredibly difficult to get into the game. Other freemium games, such as Plants vs. Zombies 2, do a much better job of balancing the need for ongoing, engaging gameplay with the developer’s desire to make money from a freemium game.
Cloudy 2 is very cute, and the mechanics are just different enough from most match-three titles to make it interesting. It’s just a shame that the abundant content can’t be accessed without considerable expense.