Publisher: The Game Atelier
Developer: The Game Atelier
Judging from their output to date, The Game Atelier seem to be committed to the idea that what works on mobile should also work on the Vita. Also judging from their output to date: they might just be right. So far, each of their releases on Sony's handheld — The Flying Hamster HD, Sunflowers and now Crazy Market — have seemed like the sort of thing that might have a more natural fit on a smartphone (in fact, two of them are available for mobile devices and tablets already), and so far, all three of their games have shown themselves to be natural fits for the platform.
I'm sure people who prefer doing their gaming with buttons (a group that includes me) probably cringed at that line. But you know what? With its front and back touchscreens, there's no reason why any number of great iOS and Android casual games wouldn't work just as well on the Vita. While I wouldn't quite place The Game Atelier's output on the level of, say, Angry Birds or Burn the Rope (both of which, it should be noted, were also ported to the Vita, with fantastic results), I would say that they've consistently created games just a tier below.
Crazy Market certainly solidifies that notion. It's a fun game, with bite-sized levels that seem tailor-made for pick-up-and-play sessions in a way that neither Flying Hamster nor Sunflowers were — even at their longest, the levels here can be raced through in just a few minutes, while its use of star ratings makes it easy to go back and try levels until you ace them. Not only that, it's got simple, straightforward controls — scan the grocery items you want to keep, flick away the distractions like bombs, dogs and babies — that seem like they'd be impossible to forget, regardless of how long it's been between sessions.
So it's got a lot of the good things mobile gaming has to offer. Unfortunately, Crazy Market also has the one big bad: it's a Free-to-Play game, and the only way to get the full experience is to pay. See, your on-screen character apparently never goes home to sleep at night, and as a result (s)he has a crippling addiction to coffee, to the point that, once you reach the tenth level or so, you'll need to consume another cup for every new level. You earn a couple of those in-game, but if you want to avoid waiting for your character to recharge every few levels, you'll have to buy them using real currency — though the game also offers you the chance to buy 500,000 in-game coins for the low, low price of $14.99. Admittedly, at this point, that's basically motivating force the behind F2P games, so complaining about it now is the reviewing equivalent of the horse and the barn door. It's hard not to be irked by it, but that's the way it goes, I guess.
And besides, as the argument usually goes, it's not like the add-ons are 100% necessary to beat the game. If you're patient, and you don't mind waiting now and then for the game to replenish itself, it's easy to see Crazy Market as an excellent time-waster — albeit one where you've got to watch how much time you spend with, which arguably defeats the entire purpose. Still, at an entry price of nothing, it's definitely worth at least a download.