But when I got a Google alert in my inbox about the world's first family-friendly 3-D MMO for Facebook, I had to head back to the blue-and-white wasteland of Facebook and see it firsthand. Could it be that the era of isometric views and mindless clicking is finally over? Have we finally moved on from agriculturally themed games? I decided to check out World of Trinketz to seek some answers.
The good news is that World of Trinketz does indeed have a vibrant, eye-catching, 3-D world with some fun activities. But the farming is still there, for better or worse. However, there's more to World of Trinketz than watching over rows of brown squares. The game centers around collecting and managing trinketz, which are like virtual Neopets. You're in charge of amusing them, maintaining their health, and keeping their energy levels up. In return, the trinketz perform all sorts of favors, like growing fruits and baking pies. To keep them happy and healthy, you need to supply them with various collectable materials that are found in Normy-town, such as planks and water, or you can provide them with materials that are purchased, like energy volts. If you neglect your pets for too long, they won't work for you. Grumpy trinketz are a bad thing!
In addition to managing your Trinketz, you can take up fishing and chat with Oddball Bill, the Normy Town Transient. There are also many quests to take on, and you can explore other areas outside of Normy Town. At level 7, players can visit Scrappington, a junkyard treasure trove that's the home of Clanky Trinketz. At higher levels, players can explore Summitside, which contains an active volcano, a mountain that's the home to new Trinketz, and a lost pirate. There's also Trinketz Valley, which also contains new Trinketz to find and collect.
Movement controls were tricky at first. You can use ASDF or the arrows, but the camera angle doesn't sync with the direction you're going. Similarly, the left mouse button moves you around and the right button moves the camera, so after a while I figured out that by using both I could move around much more easily.
Chat can be public, private, or Facebook-flavored. From the brief test I did in the privacy of my house, I found that the chat window seems filter-free, and I was able to type a variety of four-letter words without having them blocked. Another heads up for parents is that as with practically all games these days, the game is monetized. World of Trinketz has two currencies: coins and Trinketz bucks. You can earn both in game and can use both to purchase basic goods, but Trinketz bucks allow players to skip the time that it takes for Trinketz to produce whatever you've assigned them to make. Players can buy extra Trinketz bucks with Facebook credits, so parents will want to make sure to prevent children from unknowingly dropping lots of money into the game.
Another thing that surprised me was that the NPCs all had voice-overs, but they pretty much spoke gibberish. I understand that it might be hard to do voice-overs in one language if the target audience is worldwide, but considering it's a game for children, I'm not sure the best option is to babble. This is an audience that's (hopefully) working hard at school and learning to speak clearly, express thoughts, and build up their vocabulary, and the gibberish almost seems to work counter to that.
World of Trinketz is a pleasant game, but you can see a lot of the FarmVille philosophy in the game. Much of the game's core is based on time and resource management in a 3-D setting. There are side activities, like fishing and dance parties with Trinketz boom boxes, but there's always a constant pull to pamper your Trinketz. You have to wonder at some point whether players are playing the game because they want to or because they feel obligated to do so. I don't want to single World of Trinketz out for this because even in traditional MMOs, you'll often hear the same sentiments from players who log in out of routine or out of loyalty to a guild, long after they've lost the fun of the game. Overall, the World of Trinketz crew did a commendable job with creating a 3-D world through Facebook, and the trinketz themselves are cute and endearing. I'm still not a Facebook fan, but this game has restored my faith that there can be a future for quality Facebook games.
The MMO Family column is devoted to common issues with families and gaming. Every other week, Karen looks at current trends and ways to balance family life and play. She also shares her impressions of MMO titles to highlight which ones are child-friendly and which ones offer great gaming experiences for young and old alike. You are welcome to send feedback or Wonka Bars to email@example.com.