Review: Throne Together (Xbox Live)
Would you like to build a castle? There are some ruins in play, but you need to drop the blocks from the top of the screen as the Castle Inspector demands you create the perfect construction. This Xbox Live title (that's right, Xbox Live isn't dead) is an attractive game that is entertaining with little of the freemium frustration the cynic would expect.
Version Reviewed: 188.8.131.520
Throne Together is a mix of Tetris-like block placement and block-balancing construction. Gravity plays a huge part of the game. You can't leave blocks hanging about in the air, they will fall to the ground and you'll need to build on them where they land.
The other consideration you have in Throne Together is the pressure on each block. Stack too many blocks over a single block and it will shatter under the combined weight of the blocks above it... in which case gravity comes back into play.
To help you gauge the pressure, blocks will be coloured to show the stress they are under - the closer they get to red, the closer they are to breaking. So while you can plan your blocks to complete the challenge presented by each level, you need to bear in mind how you are building the blocks, not just if the shape fits well.
As noted, Throne Together is a level-based game. Driving the overall story is the request from the Castle Inspector to build up a structure with a set of criteria. This could be as simple as scoring a fixed number of points, it could be to connect two different buildings or items on the screen, or it could even be to build a structure with bricks filling up a specified area.
These various challenges keep the interest high. Playing through a game you are asked to do different things each time you open a new level, even though it is the same basic mechanic.
And that's where I do have an issue with Throne Together. You have a choice of blocks at the top of the screen which allows you to plan how to build something (you can choose the blocks in any order), and to bring them onto the game area you drag with your finger. Unfortunately, my finger blocks the view around the block I am dragging (especially of the smaller blocks) so getting them to slot into the correct position involves a bit of guesswork.
It seems such an obvious issue that I wonder how it was missed. Other games have the block hover just above your finger's contact point on the screen, which is far more sensible. I hope Throne Together gets a UI tweak in the next release.
Clarity issues aside, Throne Together really does look the part. The graphics in the game are clear, and the stress shading is handled well. Messages and level goals are clearly communicated, and the menu screens are easy to navigate.
It's also worth noting that Throne Together is a freemium game in the mould of Candy Crush Saga. You have to have a 'heart' to play a level - you get it back if you are successful in the level, otherwise you need to spend another heart to play. One heart regenerates every thirty minutes, you can ask friends on social media (in exchange, to promote the game), or you can fill the heart meter for a small in-app purchase.
This is just how the games market is at the moment, and while it can sometimes rear its head, most of the time I was playing short gaming sessions. As the thirty minute counter is tracked even when the game is not running I would start each session with the full quota of lives.
So, Throne Together uses the now-standard freemium model for a puzzle game and Microsoft Studios has brought over the expected elements from the freemium craze. It has built a good game that feels comfortable on one hand, but offers a challenge that feels unique and different. The developers could have churned out another Candy Crush / Match Three game (I'm looking at you Frozen Free Fall), instead they brought something fresh to the table, which I rather enjoy.
It's not perfect, but that's okay. It's a fun snack of a game that has kept me entertained over the last week. It's worth a look.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at