Flutter: Butterfly Sanctuary (iOS) review
Flutter is a new iOS game from Runaway. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, with an Android version to follow “not too long afterwards,” according to the team’s official website. The game carries additional in-app purchases of in-game currency. A previous (and now-defunct) incarnation of Flutter on Facebook helped fund some WWF projects in the rainforest — it’s not yet clear if Runaway will be taking a similar approach with the mobile version of Flutter, but it seems the developer is open to giving some of its profits to charity.
In Flutter, players are tasked with building a rainforest butterfly sanctuary and collecting as many different species of butterfly as possible. This is achieved by clearing leaves to open up new areas in the rainforest, attracting butterfly eggs to an “incubator,” hatching them into caterpillars, feeding the caterpillars leaves until they turn into a chrysalis and finally hatching the chrysalis into a butterfly. Full-grown butterflies can then be fed pollen from plants around the rainforest, and once they have consumed a certain amount of pollen, they level up. Butterflies have a level cap which can be increased by “fusing” them with other butterflies of the same species.
As the player increases their butterflies in level, they produce larger amounts of the game’s soft currency “Honeydew,” and the game’s built-in “Flutterpedia” gradually populates with more and more information about each real-life species, including (cartoonish) images of the butterfly as a caterpillar, chrysalis and adult, its scientific name, a fact about it and a special power. As the player collects more butterflies and levels up, their “butterfly score” increases, and at various milestones new species are unlocked.
Honeydew acquired through breeding butterflies must be spent on clearing additional areas in the forest and triggering flowers to produce pollen. The game also features a hard currency known as “Flutterbucks,” which is largely used to hurry wait times for hatching eggs, producing pollen and the like. Flutterbucks may be earned simply through play in a variety of ways — for example, occasionally flower petals float through the player’s sanctuary, and chasing them with butterflies occasionally yields a Flutterbuck reward. Completing collections of butterflies also rewards the player with Flutterbucks. These Flutterbucks may also be spent on purchasing a guaranteed egg from a particular butterfly collection rather than relying on the otherwise random nature of which egg will be attracted to the incubator next.
Flutter is certainly a very nice looking and sounding game that it’s clear the developer has put a lot of effort into in terms of presentation. It’s a shame, then, that the gameplay just isn’t very interesting. After a while it becomes little more than the usual mobile game routine of logging in, tapping on things that have produced currency, waiting to see if timers have expired and hoping that the next randomly-acquired item is something you haven’t seen before. There’s little in the way of social play despite the game supporting both the Game Center and Mobage networks, the game is very slow to get started with and requires very little in the way of skill or strategy. The quasi-educational angle is a nice touch, but it takes a considerable amount of play before unlocking anything other than cartoonish, non-realistic illustrations of the butterflies such as the species’ scientific name or facts.
Those who enjoy gameplay focusing on collecting items will doubtless find some enjoyment here, but for most people this is little more than an idle timewaster with an admittedly pleasant and relaxing natural ambience about it. It’s perhaps one to watch to see if Runaway can repeat a similarly successful charitable campaign as they managed with the previous incarnation of the game, but it’s certainly far from a must-play title, sadly.
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A pleasing natural ambience and socially-aware theme unfortunately does little to disguise rather conventional, dull gameplay.