Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but when it comes to mobile game clones, you need to make sure you’re bringing something new to the table to really stand out from the crowd. It could be as simple as the setting, characters, or power-ups. More successful clones add mechanics or attack types, to freshen up proven concepts. Then again, there’s always the difficulty of the game. But if you’re going to make a well established genre harder, make sure it also seems fair.
Bunnies’ Empire is a blatant Plants Vs. Zombies clone with none of the charm of the original and a serious case of unrealistic difficulty curve. Not to say that casual games should be simple and mindless, but two levels out of the tutorial should be beatable in less than 5 tries. It took me twelve.
Like many mobile games, Bunnies’ Empire is divided into 30 levels in 4 distinct zones. Each zone is meant to have a unique art style, but I wouldn’t know because in over 3 hours of play I never got past stage 5. I also love to be able to tell you if the game deviated at all from the simple grid structure of basic tower defense, but I just couldn’t commit to grinding enough to see.
Where Bunnies’ Empire tries to distinguish itself from other more popular mobile tower defense games like Plants Vs. Zombies is by focusing on unit management and strategy. However, units are expensive and the carrots used to buy more units are slow to regenerate. Which seems like a fair trade off: focus on either deploying units, or generating energy. However, with no way to move units already deployed and the possibility of having up to 6 enemy units in a single lane, you really just have to defend everything and hope for the best.
You are able to upgrade units you’ve already unlocked using coins, which can also be bought from the in game store. Which is fair considering the game is free to play. There is also a coins doubler available for $2.75. But the fact even leveling my base units to level 5 wasn’t enough to get me past stage 5 makes the game feel strongly like the focus is on pay to win.
If I wanted to grind I’d play Earthbound.
While the art style is cute and accessible and the focus on strategy sounds like a good idea, Bunnies’ Empire feels like it was constructed so that you have to pay to make it playable. Which I would have been happy to do, if the game had been honest about that from the start.