Sunday, March 18, 2012

Wallabee – A location-based collectibles game for iPhones

Wallabee iPhone iOS appIt would seem typical that just as the weather turns into something approaching spring that I sustain a very serious leg injury that has meant I’ve been unable to geocache for a couple of months.  Worse still, with it still heavily bandaged, locations that are muddy, wet or prone to having items that will whack me in the shins are off limits for the time being by doctor’s orders.

I can now walk (or rather hobble) around the block but after a mile or so I need to rest the leg and put it up.  This means that even a day urban caching has been off the cards.  It has driven me mad.  And this is where Wallabee has been a lifesaver.

Wallabee collectibles

Wallabee is a location based collectibles game currently only available on iOS devices that is best described as a mix between Foursquare and baseball cards.  Instead of ‘checking into’ a location, players ‘forage’ which can turn up one of two things.  More often than not a forage will turn up a random number of honeycombs, the virtual currency the game uses, but there’s also the chance of turning up a collectible.

Collectibles can be thought of as like a trading card.  Indeed, at the time of writing, the developers are looking to rebrand the collectibles as virtual trading cards to enable better understanding of the game.  They are a piece of uniquely numbered artwork belonging to various themes.  The themes themselves are very diverse ranging from The Wizard of Oz to Dinosaurs to the 1960s to Time Travel.

Wallabee iPhone iOS app

Collectibles get placed in your thirty slot pouch and from there can be added to your sets.  The idea is that you complete a set of all the collectibles for a particular theme.  Of course, over time you will be get duplicate collectibles, and this is where the real fun of the game begins.  You can swap identical collectibles between your pouch and your set, the idea being to get the lowest (or, for some hardcore players, a specific) unique number.  Surplus collectibles can be placed in one of the thirty free slots at any location for other players to come and pick up, sold for honeycombs on the player market or can be recycled to free up pouch space.

But you might want to hold on to duplicate collectibles because some items can only be obtained by ‘mixing’ two specific items in your pouch.  For example Explorers from the Expedition Everest theme is created by mixing a Climbing Helmet with a Climbing Rope, and the Climbing Rope is itself a collectible created by mixing Hiking Boots with Insulated Socks.  Do you use your low numbered Hiking Boots to create the Climbing Rope in the aim of getting a very low numbered explorer or do you save it to your set and wait for another Hiking Boots collectible to come along?

Wallabee location based game

Given that collectibles only drop from certain types of locations (in the case of the Hiking Boots, Clothes Shops and Health locations) or in some instances are only available through the Wallabee store for Honeycombs, trying to complete a set can involve a lot of head scratching.  But it does mean that as I do my daily walk I can forage all the locations along the way and return home with a lot of new collectibles to add, mix or recycle.

The downsides

There are a couple of downsides to the game.  Firstly, you find yourself foraging a location multiple times each visit – i.e  36 Honeycombs one time, 9 the next, then a collectible Baseball Helmet drop.  The amount of honeycombs will generally decrease if you keep foraging the same location in quick succession, but still it feels like a lot of button mashing.

Secondly, the location database is terrible.  There are enough locations for most new players to find something within walking distance but some of the co-ordinates are wildly off.  There is a church near me that is about half a mile away from where it should be.  Wallabee has countered this by generous proximity from which to forage and allowing users to add new locations but typically you will find users adding locations close to them in which to store their ever growing collection of half completed sets.  It means that new players might find coverage to be a little patchy, but it does also mean that if they are close to an existing player they can get a good quick boost to their sets.

More about Wallabee

These problems aside it is very encouraging to see the Wallabee team consistently release new sets every couple of weeks.  They are also not trying to nickel and dime players.  The game app is free and there is an option to buy extra honeycombs but in reality, foraging produces more than enough for even dedicated players.  Instead the business side of the game is targeting business to pay for branded collectible  items.   It’s this kind of attitude that makes me ungrudging in paying a few dollars in order to expanding my pouch capacity to sixty slots.

Wallabee app game foraging

The team also seem to be willing to try new things.  Each new set has its own challenges, and half the fun is working out your personal strategy whilst still trying to gather more information.  At the time of writing, I have been sent one of three pets for the latest set, and have discovered that I can now forage stones that can be mixed with the other two.  A quick round of trading with other players has resulted in a stone I can mix with my pet to create an ‘upgraded’ pet.  But at this moment in time I am enjoying having no idea how I’m going to get the additional pets needed to complete this set.

To help, Wallabee has an API open to other developers and as a result I have a second app called Honeyblend that tells me where I need to forage for any given collectible or what I need to mix or if it is only available via the Wallabee store.  Like Wallabee this is free, with the ability to pay to unlock an advanced set of tools such as searching your local area for collectibles you do not have or are numbered lower than ones you currently own.

Wallabee sets

At little over a year old, Wallabee has a lot going for it.  With so many collectibles it can sometimes feel daunting trying to complete all these sets but the complexity and scale of the game is part of its charm.

The user community is currently very small but dedicated and friendly.  The game deserves to grow and do well.  Hopefully we’ll see this come to other platforms in the future.  It’s been a godsend these past few months and I intend to keep playing it even after I am able to properly geocache once again.

About Adrian Faulkner

Adrian Faulkner is a writer of both fiction and non-fiction. He is an active geocacher with over 9000 finds to his name. You can find more by Adrian at and on his Google Plus page.

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