Sandbox games are nothing new. The early 2000’s was bustling with them, across the internet, you’d be assaulted by all these cheap flash productions that got players to kill harmless, innocent, pixelated villagers or ragdolls by some pretty violent (yet strangely enticing) means. Such amazing games as Pillage the Village, and Kill Your Ragdoll are but some of the internet trends that have fallen into modern obscurity. ArsonVille, by Slavitica, is an attempt to return to those golden days of arcade wonder.
In ArsonVille the player is God. Or at least, an overbearing entity with the ability to create matter, and fires, at will. The only objective in this game is to burn as much as possible using as little help as possible. That’s it. No campaign, no multiplayer, and no scoring system. Aside from feeling a little barebones in its complexity, this game is very, very straightforward. Upon pressing the ‘play’ button on the main menu, you’ll be whisked away to a map, that looks it was taken from Qubert. From there, the player has thirty seconds to look at the surrounding mass of trees, green patches of grass, and placement of houses in order to figure out how to burn the village down the fastest. After which the ‘fire’ button becomes interactive and you can choose where the fire starts on the map below, resulting in everything becoming cinders.
As a concept, it’s a brilliant idea, but as the current final product; it’s extremely underwhelming. Due to the lack of a coherent campaign that isn’t just procedurally generated, it leaves players wanting more simply because there’s no challenge. While casual titles like this have their place on the market, this game specifically would benefit from a short story mode. It would make players think about where to put their TNT, how close their oil should be to the treeline, and how to use kindling correctly.
A lack of challenge gives ArsonVille a distinct air of unpolished work, whether this was the case is irrelevant, as challenge could have easily been added in with many differing modes. Such as an endless mode, where you could have tried to keep a fire going as long as possible in order to win points. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case and the game is too easy, with no substance in its current form. To add to this rather sizeable flaw is the exceedingly mediocre sound design, and animation. Both of which are crucial in any indie project such as this because the emphasis isn’t usually on incredible visuals, so developers place their resources into making their titles unique. ArsonVille just looks and sounds terrible. The fire effect itself sounds as if someone walked into the recording room with a pack of biscuits, and sat there in front of the microphone rustling the wrapper. In a game where all the player can do is burn things to the ground: that’s a step in the wrong direction.
ArsonVille is an unrefined game then, it’s got a wonderful concept that could easily become a fully-fledged, fun, game with updates, patches, and developer input. As it stands, though, it’s not worth any hard-earned cash.
ArsonVille – 2/5