I’m not going to lie: it can be really addictive. It’s also really frustrating. You spend several
minutes doing “quests” of some sort to gain money and XP to unlock more items to craft – which unlock more quests and earn you more money and XP over time.
Then you run into the timers.
Whether it’s the crafting timer, or the questing timer, sooner or later you’re going to run out of things you can do in the current session. You can speed a timer along using donuts (well, it is The Simpsons…) but donuts are a rare commodity. You earn them slowly by levelling up, or you can buy them in bundles as an IAP1. I can see how many people have ended up spending hundreds on these games, as the temptation to hurry things along is always there. I did buy some donuts in-game, to figure out how worth it it would be to speed through the early levels2 and get to the more varied and interesting stuff.
Short answer: it’s not. You will unlock more content faster, but the amount of donuts you need to keep pushing through ramps up spectacularly.
While I liked Tapped Out, I wanted another game. One I could play while the timers in TO were counting down. I figured that I’d got TO for its SimCity-esque play, so why not just get the iOS SimCity game? So I did.
And while I do like Tapped Out, it is a little too restricted by the timers. Particularly in the early levels you find yourself locked out of doing anything for hours on end while you complete a mandatory task which unlocks the next building you have to add to unlock the next mandatory task. It sounds terrible and repetitive, feeling like designed to extract as many IAPs from you as it can — and sometimes it can be — but often it’s a simple, light-hearted, casual game which keeps you coming back for more, particularly with the many “special events” which seem to run frequently; the Valentines event just finished, and a comic-inspired superhero event has just started, complete with campy, vintage, creeping villains sneaking around Springfield.
Overall, it’s not my favourite iOS game out there, but I like it and keep returning to it. The timers are a source of frustration, but they also help draw you back in: setting the characters onto tasks to complete in the time in between dipping in and out of the game. You might only play for a few minutes at a time, but you play often.