Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Nemo's Reef

Parenting, man: who knew it would take up so much of your valuable gaming time? I mean, I have tried everything to get my now sixteen-month old to engage and game with me, but he just won’t do it. We tried a little Minecraft together and at first he was distracted by the colors or maybe it was the game’s aesthetics? Okay, okay, it was the sounds the cows, sheep, and pigs were making. And before you get all PETA on me, I promise you none of the virtual animals were hurt in the creation of this post. No, that’s a lie, too. I’ve tried to make my character into a vegan, but why eat mushroom stew when beef and pork is so plentiful? But ultimately he gave up on the gameplay in favor of chewing on the left joystick on my Xbox controller. I don’t blame him, though; they do have an interesting texture and a surprisingly mellow yet distinctive flavor. I tried to bribe him with an old 3rd party Dreamcast controller but he wasn’t biting (get it? Biting? Ha, I kill me!). I guess once you have a taste for Xbox, no other can replace the craving. So, long story short, it was the end of our short-lived foray into gaming together: or was it? Upon his first trip to his new pediatrician’s office out here on the west coast I noticed just how fascinated he was with the fish tank, something that unfortunately due to the two crazy Siamese cats that I mention in my bio, we cannot have in our home. But thanks to a quick search on the App Store, I found the next best thing: Enter Nemo’s Reef.

It’s been a little bit now since I bowed out of Clash of Clans because of the fact I was going to have to spend real world money, my other half letting me down in the troop support department, and the fact that my Clan was East Coast and I’m now West Coast (I don’t even think I need to get into the dangerous politics of that). I thought my days of time-wasting mobile games were done, but oh how wrong I was. Nemo’s Reef has become the kind of obsession that I managed to escape while playing Clash ofClans, maybe because I never made a promise not to spend money or maybe because I was playing for my son. I mean I’m totally playing this game meant for children four and up for my son. There is no way that I’m spending what little free time I have playing this game for my own satisfaction, right? I only spent every last pearl we had saved up for weeks trying to get the limited edition Flame Angelfish for him, not for me. And when I fell short it was only because I didn’t want to see the disappointment in those little toddler eyes of his that I forked over the $1.99 for the 85 Pearls that allowed me to stop that said fish from escaping our reef and I totally didn’t freak out when I then discovered the fish was worthless and would cost me, ahem I mean us, 25,000 Algae just to produce a single stinking pearl. And I definitely didn’t shake back and forth curled up in a fetal position in our shower letting the ice-cold water try and wash that dirty feeling away after spending real money on a free game over the thought of missing out on an opportunity to add a fake fish to my reef! 
The elusive Flame Angelfish
Okay, I admit it, he has a problem and I am a little worried about the time he spends in front of the iPad playing this game. I mean, when he’s not playing it he’s so nice and outgoing, but just let him try and complete one of Mr. Ray’s homework assignments and it’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It’s crazy to watch him stare at the screen with a look of contempt as Mr. Ray tries to scam more Pearls out of him requesting him to Grow 3 Rare Plants from any type of Rare Seed. I mean, really Mr. Ray? Wasn’t that the homework yesterday? And you say any type of Rare Seed but what you’re really saying is don’t even bother wasting your time with Mystery Seeds; it’s not the 1,200 Sand Dollar price tag that will get you, it’s the 200 Algae per growth cycle. For those of you not familiar with the game, each item from the Nursery, minus the Specials, require you to spend Sand Dollars or Pearls to purchase them and then three cycles of Algae-fueled growth to reach their full potential. So to grow a single Mystery Seed you’re talking about a 600 Algae commitment on top of the 1,200 Sand Dollar initial investment. Although I’m not really complaining about the Sand Dollar part since they practically grow on trees. Well, maybe not a tree, but Giant Green Seabushes for sure. 

An example of Mr. Ray and his assignments 
You see, Sand Dollars are produced by Living Plants and Algae is produced by Coral, but it has been my experience that you always have more than enough Sand Dollars and never enough Algae because you only use Sand Dollars for the initial purchase; it’s Algae that’s used for every growth cycle and the more you grow the quicker you burn through it. Also, once you are lucky enough to grow some of the Rare Plants you attract Rare Fish that will produce Pearls for you if fed Algae, but we’ll get into that after. First, let’s finish talking about what an a#$ Mr. Ray really is by asking you to grow these Rare Plants. Let’s talk options: as previously mentioned, you can try and grow them using Mystery Seeds at 1,200 Sand Dollars and 600 Algae a pop, but we’re not talking a 3,600 Sand Dollar 1,800 Algae commitment. No, on average it takes five Mystery Seeds to grow one Rare Plant. That’s right, the game cheats and causes you to grow worthless Ornamental Plants that you have no use for, so we’re talking a 6,000 Sand Dollar 3,000 Algae commitment to possibly grow one of the three Rare Plants needed to complete Mr. Ray’s Homework. To grow all three you’re talking about upwards off 18,000 Sand Dollars and 9,000 Algae if you’re lucky enough to grow all three Rare Plants after that and not end up with just a pile of Red Branches, Turquoise Stems or Lilac Cirripathes. 

And what’s the Reward for all of your effort? A measly 1,500 XP and 450 Sand Dollars. I swear to god it seems like every other day Mr. Ray is demanding this of us. Now it wouldn’t be so bad if the reward for completing your Homework was Pearls, but that’s no longer the case. Yeah, that’s right, Mr. Ray used to hand out Pearls like proverbial gold stars but that came to a crashing halt around the same time I spent real world money for that useless Flame Angelfish. I’m not sure if it was because I bought Pearls or if once you complete each day of homework for the first time the Pearls come of the table (seriously if someone has that answer please clue me in, I’d look it up but I’m lazy and I feel bad enough about the amount of time I spend on this game) but now he just hands out XP and either Algae or Sand Dollars but never enough to really make it worth your while. Sure sometimes we luck out and he happens to ask us to do something we’re already going to do like Feed Three Rare Fish, but usually it’s the planting of Rare Seeds and sure, you have other options to grow your three Rare Plants, but they’re equally crappy and involve spending Pearls or an even more obscene amount of Sand Dollars and Algae. You can use the unholy Enigmatic Seed for a mere 10,000 Sand Dollars and 2,000 Algae a growth cycle (6,000 total) for a chance (that’s right a chance) of growing one Rare Plant. If it isn’t bad enough that buying an Enigmatic Seed is going to break your bank, it doesn’t even guarantee you a Rare Plant? Screw that! If you want a guaranteed Rare Plant you have no choice but to use Pearls to either grow an Extraordinary Mystery Seed for 10 Pearls and 10 Algae a cycle (30 total) or a Spectacular Seed for 45 Pearls and 100 Algae a cycle (300 total). None of these options are worth the payout that Mr. Ray is offering and you’re better off growing Rare Plants because you want to catch the Special Rare Fish that they offer during select weekends like the previously mentioned Flame Angelfish that turned out to have a horrible return on investment. 

The Rare Seeds
So if that’s the case and Pearls (not cash) rule everything around me, how can you get said item without dropping a chunk of your actual cold hard cash? Well, I’m glad you asked. There are two ways that I know of; three really if you don’t mind pimping yourself out for the “free” Pearls, but just like the old saying goes, nothing in this life is free and I already fell for this “free” game that I spent $1.99 on. No, the two ways to get Pearls without doing anything shady or leaving you with that unclean feeling are logging in and playing every day. When you do this, after three days you are rewarded with a single Pearl. If you make it to four days, you’re rewarded with two pearls and if you make it five days in a row you hit the mother load of five Pearls by showing your undying loyalty. For you curious types there is a reward of 10 Sand Dollars the first day you log on and 100 Sand Dollars for the second day, but that is just the foreplay before you start earning those Pearls. Once you reach day five the cycle starts anew. So for those of you playing along at home, for every 30 days you play in a row without missing a single day you earn 48 Pearls, which is enough for a single Spectacular Seed with three Pearls to spare. Starting to understand what kind of sociopath Mr. Ray really is? 

But don’t get down; there is another way to earn Pearls and that is by feeding Rare Fish Algae. When you do this, they produce a single pearl after a 72-hour cycle. So, using the example of the Flame Angelfish, if you spend 25,000 Algae to feed it, the fish will produce a single Pearl in 72 hours. That one isn’t exactly worth it, but luckily there are more cost effective fish like the Green Parrotfish who will produce a Pearl for 250 Algae. So how do you get these Rare Fish? By growing Rare Plants. Wait, isn’t that what Mr. Ray asked us to do? Yeah, it is, but you want to Grow Rare Plants when you’re ready, not when Mr. Ray says so. It’s always nice to have a nest egg of Pearls for the weekends when the game brings in the Special Rare Fish or when you want to buy some of the Coral or Living Plants that can only be bought with Pearls or to open Treasure Chests if that is your thing. Yeah, random Treasure Chests appear and can be opened at the cost of Pearls, and sometimes the reward is great like spending six Pearls to open one chest and finding eleven Pearls inside, but most of the time it’s either just Sand Dollars or Algae and overall not worth my time. Sometimes to complete the weekend missions you must open chests and I’ll admit every now and then the game throws you a bone and gives you a free chest or one that can be opened with Sand Dollars, but most of the time it wants your Pearls. 
Part of the Algae farm
That’s why Mr. Ray (and this game as a whole) is brilliantly designed because sure you can survive in the reef without forking over your ducats, but it isn’t easy and sometimes it’s just impossible, especially if you get your heart set on trying to capture a certain elusive weekend special. My advice would be to run away screaming and don’t even get yourself involved in this madness, but if you can’t help yourself and you have to explore the reef, go in with open eyes and do everything in your power to create as much Algae as you can. Because, in a world ruled by Pearls, Algae is a man’s best friend. Having an Algae farm will allow you to have plenty of Algae to feed those Rare Fish and gain Pearls and it will also allow you the ability to waste thousands of Algae at a time trying to grow Rare Plants with regular old Mystery Seeds. Plus, it won’t cost you a dime; just hours and hours of your life, but don’t worry about that, right? Think about that after it’s much too late and your child (now an adult) won’t return your phone calls because you spent his childhood glued to an iPad trying to populate a virtual reef with virtual fish for his benefit. If you do decide to get your feet wet, then look us up: our profile name is Xavier112213, but don’t say I didn’t warn you when Mr. Ray demands the blood of your first child for an opportunity at 1,300 XP and 500 Algae.