Ngmoco’s got this whole ‘freemium’ concept pretty well covered. They’ve sold deathmatches, virtual puppy chow, monarchical mojo, and now divinity in tiny, microtransaction-sized chunks. GodFinger, which lets you either play for free over time by waiting, or pay in installments for game-advancing ‘awe’, is great for a trial run, but may not hold your interest indefinitely.
In the first hour of Godfinger, you’ll move through a steady tutorial about performing miracles and tending to your worshipers on a Little Prince-sized planet. When you level up, you’ll immediately recharge your mana, which lets you perform the rainfall and sunshine miracles that power your worshipers’ farms. These farms produce gold, which you can use to buy an assortment of other gold farms, plus recharge stations for when your worshipers need to rest.
It’s a small world after all.
Mastering GodFinger requires a constant balance of different resources: gold, mana, and your worshipers’ stamina are just a few. The goal is to gain as many experience points as quickly as possible, which will let you unlock more abilities and items in the virtual store.
The X factor in all this is time. If you’re willing to wait, you never have to pay a dime for GodFinger. You can simply close the application, check in from time to time to make a few adjustments, and grow your planet over the course of weeks. If you’re impatient, though, you can spend ‘awe’, which will have instant effects like constructing buildings, recharging your mana, or resting your worshipers. Awe, of course, can be bought for real money in packs ranging from $3 to $30.
A small planet that is yours to control is a great setting for a game, especially if you have an active group of friends in your pantheon. You can visit your friends’ planets, bless their worshipers, and receive a gold bonus for it.
Pennies for heaven.
As complicated as all of this sounds, GodFinger is meant to be simple and addictive. The biggest downside is that ticking timers are everywhere, telling you how much your worshipers can work, how long it will take to make gold, and how long it will take to earn more mana. Sometimes playing this game feels like watching the show 24, but just the digital clock bumpers that appear right before commercials.
We’d also like it if there was a greater goal to GodFinger than just leveling up. An evil god to defeat, a princess to rescue, anything that would have made the basic gameplay more compelling would have been appreciated. Instead, it’s a much more abstract goal of filling your utopia with productive, well-rested laborers and decorating it with cow skulls and banners.
Ngmoco seems to be treating the iPad like Facebook, which, given that site’s success with freemium gaming, we can’t really fault them for. If you’re looking for a game based on patience more than skill, with bragging rights instead of a real story, give GodFinger a free try.