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Kairosoft is a gaming company that has built a name for themselves on quality. Their simulation games have constantly topped many reviewers' "best of" list for Android titles, and personally they've enthralled me for many an hour.

It seems almost peculiar, though, that they've never delved too deeply into in-app payments or other models that are more prevalent on the Android platform. Kairosoft has stuck to their guns and delivered a full game for a set price, forgoing "pay to win" shortcuts in favour of good mechanics and pure fun.

So naturally when they released "Beastie Bay" recently, you can understand how a free, ad-supported game might ruffle some feathers. Pessimists among us may throw up their arms, stating "That's it! Kairosoft is dead!"

But I assure you, good readers, that isn't the case.

"Free, with ads" done right

2012-10-06 13.55.46 2012-10-06 13.56.05 2012-10-06 13.56.13

The first thing we need to get out of the way is that ads in this game are how every title should be handling them. They are unobtrusive and do not disrupt the gameplay experience in any way, simply sitting at the bottom of the screen for you to glance at. While the marketers among us may scoff at the lack of real estate and the wasted potential, I'd argue otherwise.

What Kairosoft has done here is cultivate a product that respects its players. They don't want to turn their fan base against them, so it's almost as if the company has said "here, have a free game on us." You can easily remove the ads for a one-time fee of $3.99, which is in line with the price of the rest of their games.

The lack of any other in-app payments, even to get in-game resources or gold, is also extremely appreciated [Edit: I've been informed they do unlock eventually, but only after saving a certain resident. IAP seem to be a necessary evil in these kinds of games, but I appreciate Kairosoft's insistence that you at least play the game for a bit first]. I don't like being hounded to essentially pay to cheat - or in more extreme circumstances, pay to have a good experience - so the lack of aggression lets me focus on enjoying the game.

And ultimately, this is how most ads should be handled: a company shouldn't be punishing its players with a free model, but providing an alternate way for them to enjoy the game. Players who want to pay Kairosoft for their game will, but they are losing nothing by giving it away for free: they make revenue through ads and attract new players. Those players (who might not have paid for the game otherwise) can choose to commit to no ads, or stay where they are.

I fear that many game companies are so concerned about turning a profit on their titles they forget that aggressive advertising and in-app payments can alienate players. While Kairosoft's model isn't for everyone (they've built a name on quality and can bank on it), it's what companies should strive for.

Pokemon, this isn't

2012-10-06 13.57.44 2012-10-06 13.58.17 2012-10-06 13.58.22

It's very easy to dismiss Beastie Bay as a Pokémon clone; you have a team of monsters that you fight others with and "capture" to your side using bait. However, it's much closer to the Dragon Quest: Monsters series as the tone of the battles are "fights for survival" instead of "video game bloodsport."

The signature Kairosoft simulation elements are also present, allowing you to cultivate and develop the island you've been marooned on. Researching technologies and building habitations causes your community to thrive, and eventually you'll move on to other islands, solving problems and exploring.

In comparison to other Kairosoft titles, the split in gameplay elements (your team fighting versus your community "back home") can lead to a little bit of a lighter experience. There's less focus on statistics that make you more profit and more of an emphasis on resource management. Food and wood need to be rationed for construction and survival, but things like researching equipment and exploring caves require them, as well.

For a free product, Beastie Bay is a decent enough RPG, but the fame moves a bit slowly in terms of expansion: you can hit difficult walls in dungeons, and the relatively long wait time for research to finish can have you doing nothing but waiting. There isn't an over-arching story that keeps you going besides "survive, expand, explore," so people looking for something a bit deeper may be disappointed.

Look and feel

Graphically, this game isn't too different from other Kairosoft games, and that may be one of its biggest detractions: if you've played one Kairosoft game, you've played them all. However, for the style of game this is, graphics tend not to be the focus, and things like the transitions into battle scenes are beautifully done. Whether they're a homage to other games like it or a lack of inspiration, battles look great and perform their job well: you're not going to see anything in an RPG that you haven't seen before.

Music is in the same boat, as the looping tunes aren't annoying, and even a little infectious. It's not the type of music that will grate on your senses, but it wouldn't hurt to have some type of variety.

The game notably does away with the soft-key d-pad that most other Kairosoft titles have. Going to a purely touch-screen interface helps the game have a lot more screen real estate to show off the action; long-time fans may find this a bit weird to get used to.

Ultimately Beastie Bay looks, feels, and plays much like any other Kairosoft game, which can be a good or bad thing depending on the player's point of view.

Fans will keep on loving it, haters will keep on hating it, but regardless of affiliation gamers should appreciate Kairosoft's respect for focus on play experience instead of making money.

Matt Demers
Matt Demers is a Toronto writer that deals primarily in the area of Android, comics and other nerdy pursuits. You can find his work on Twitter and sites across the Internet.

  • http://twitter.com/Just_Reboot Josh Ciesla

    You can, ultimately, pay to cheat. It just isn't until later in the game. (In app purchases open up once you unlock a certain resident) They did a fantastic job with this game though, I can't put it down. I said they needed a change in direction and that they were getting stale - this was a fantastic return to form with a great twist.

    • http://twitter.com/mattdemers Matt Demers

      Will amend. Apologies. I had played a decent amount into the game, but hadn't unlocked him/her yet.

      • http://twitter.com/Just_Reboot Josh Ciesla

        It really is deep, deep into the game - which is pretty awesome in of itself. The same vendor sells you the ability to carry over items and creatures to a new game once yours is completed, a license to capture boss creatures, scrolls that increase creature slots and level - all for in-app currency. The in-app real money purchases allow you to buy medals.
        The game experiences crashes sometimes transitioning between ads, so save frequently. I play with my internet connection off to avoid this. Another great thing Kairosoft has done; the game functions offline, something a lot of free-to-play games have stifled.

      • S K

        Matt/Josh, You seem to have the opinion that IAP starting much later in the game is good. But to me it feels like a bait and switch. The user plays this game thinking it's purely ad-support and that ad is not intrusive. But once they have committed a lot of time to it, they start seeing IAP. Isn't that worse than being upfront about it? Not criticizing them, just thinking out aloud. Also, are the IAPs not needed if you pay the one time $3.99?

        I haven't play any of the Kairosoft games -- probably won't play this one. But was curious as to how things are handled for them to get accolades from Android Police.

        • http://twitter.com/Just_Reboot Josh Ciesla

          The IAP aren't even close to necessary to beat the game - they're pure luxury. By the time you access them the game is well in hand. You can only purchase ad-free and medals w/ real money - and the primary use of medals is sort of a gachapon for creatures (you get a random animal, all of which are catchable in-game). Kairosoft truly, truly nailed it with this game and Gameloft, Glu, and Com2us would do well to take a lesson from it.

  • Claian

    Loving this game at the moment.
    I often have it running at work and just pick it up in free minute here and there, do some exploring and go back to work.

    Josh mentioned something about crashing but i'm yet to experience one, maybe its your setup?
    And the soft D-pad is still there, you just have absolutely no need to use it.

  • Matti

    HAven't played this yet, but Kairosoft are, in my mind, still the best game developer on both Android and iOS platforms. They seem to release more titles for Android than iOS these days (or at least release the Android versions first), which is nice for us.

    I like how their games offer many hours of playability, aren't too big in size, aren't too demanding on hardware, best of all, have solid, balanced mechanics. Mechanics we often got during NES/SNES and GBA days, where graphics were simple and developers actually spent time on good gameplay. Another good thing about Kairosoft games is that they don't enforce an intense amount of immersion, which is just how games should be on smartphones, since users often multitask and also need to pay attention to their surroundings.

    Granted, Kairosoft have been at this far longer than most smartphone/tablet gaming companies. When I lived in Japan, back when their phones were already "smart" while the rest of the world was stuck with crappy WAP, I used to see people playing these sort of games all the time.

    Can't really comment on ads since I haven't played Beastie Bay yet, but if you say it's done correctly then I suppose there's nothing to compalain about. Given a choice, I'd personally prefer free demo versions of games (either limited levels or hours) and full paid ones. Maybe I'm just old fashioned and/or behind the times.

    Does anyone have any idea how well Kairosoft is doing (financially) compared to other prominent studios? By my standards, they deserve to be top-dog based on their sheer consistency and quality.

    Either way, this is on my watch list. First I need to start playing Dungeon Village (which I got for cheap a few days ago thanks to Google's sale) and Kairobotica.

  • http://www.geekmi.com Rob Neil Hendrix

    I found Gave Dev Story a while back and tried the lite version to Grand Prix story and bought the soccer one which I played only a few weeks and uninstalled it. Thing is ultimately I love Kairosoft games as I'm born and raised in the NES 8-bit era and I'm a fan of a game that keeps your attention over shows you great graphics. Granted I admit, own and play Skyrim, but anytime I have downtime lately I've been sitting in bed before going to bed or on lunch at work playing Dungeon Village over any of the other games I bought during the 25 cent sale. Their model is great and I purchased Game Dev at full price because I loved it so much and if Dungeon Village hadn't been 25 cents I would of paid full price to that too. I'm loading Beastie Bay and if I like it will probably pay to be ad-free

  • Dustin Guest

    You guys need a pin-it button, for Pintrest, Just saying.