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Terraria is the sort of game you either play for 10 minutes or for 50 hours. You'll either consider it a directionless waste of time or an engrossing mash-up of Metroid and Minecraft.
At the start of Terraria, your character is dropped in the middle of a randomized, 2D world. You have a copper sword, pickaxe and axe. An NPC nearby will provide you with random bits of knowledge but you're on your own to figure out what to do next. There's no urgent quest before you. You can do whatever you want. The short tutorial world doesn't even really explain what you're supposed to do.
In the PC and console versions of Terraria, you can take cues from other players. The iOS version sadly doesn't have any multiplayer. It's a sorely missed feature because you can accomplish much more with another player at your side. Furthermore, the experimentation and random occurrences of the game are much more fun when there's someone else to experience them with you. Without another player to guide you, you're forced to consult GameFAQs or YouTube to find out what the hell you're supposed to be doing.
The Minecraft comparisons are too simplistic because building isn't the point of Terraria. You can create large structures filled with toilets and beds and all sorts of other objects but you're rarely doing it just to satisfy your creative urges. Instead, building structures serves a purpose: they allow you to unlock additional NPC's and also craft more items. Newer, more powerful items allow you to venture into more dangerous areas to gather better materials, face stronger enemies and find better loot. Eventually you'll encounter boss enemies that can drop rare items. It's a deep experience and I just wish the mechanics were outlined more clearly because I can see many players giving up before they find the meat of the game.
Controls are always a challenge for developers creating an iOS port of a PC/console game. Touchscreen controls simply don't have the precision of an analog stick or a mouse. This drop-off in accuracy is especially damaging in a game like Terraria in which platforming and combat are central activities. There's a zoom-in feature for harvesting materials and building so you don't break the wrong wall down but high-intensity activities like battles are a mess. The simple act of turning and swinging your sword is a bit too taxing. I felt like I was battling my iPad as much as I was battling monsters. The clumsiness of combat is exacerbated by the lack of other players to assist you.
Is the mobile edition of Terraria the best version? No, it's not. Other platforms offer more precise controls and access to an online community. However, the iOS version of Terraria is the cheapest and easiest way to dive into this engaging sandbox experience. If you've missed out on Terraria thus far, this is a great way to finally jump in.
Developer: Re-Logic, Codeglue
Publisher: 505 Games