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Freemium Field Test: Disney Dodo Pop is good-natured, gumball-tapping fun

Andrew Hayward | July 21, 2015
Free-to-play games often look appealing, but it's difficult to know at a glance whether the business model is insidious and fun ruining, or reasonable and worth pumping a few bucks into. With Freemium Field Test, we'll take a recent free-to-play iOS game, put it through its paces, and let you know if it's really worth your time (and money).

Whatever the task, there's a nice, steady, and lightly strategic rhythm to Dodo Pop. This isn't the puzzler that'll have you biting your nails and screaming at a near miss--it's the game you play to wind down at night, or fill a few moments in your day with pleasant puzzle solving.

The stages occasionally throw in twists, like larger gumballs that must be used multiple times before disappearing, obstacles that prevent you from tapping certain balls, or moving pieces that shift the makeup of the grid. But I didn't encounter any huge twists along the way--and thankfully, no particularly awkward or off-putting monetization tactics.

The catch 

Calling Dodo Pop's free-to-play model a "catch" feels excessive, because there's really nothing out of the ordinary here for a freemium puzzler. It has a limited lives system and paid power-ups, but that's all par for the course. You can surely spend a load of money if you want, but the game doesn't feel particularly geared towards that, nor do the harder stages seem as nigh impossible as some of Candy Crush's.

In fact, you can't even beg Facebook friends for extra lives, or to unlock restrictive gates on the map screen--I didn't encounter any at all across the few dozen stages I played. Talk about a missed opportunity, Disney! Kidding, of course--perhaps to make things a little more friendly to kids, Dodo Pop keeps out some of the more egregious freemium irritations, and it's all the better for it. 

You'll have up to five lives to burn with stage losses, and each takes 30 minutes to regenerate--a long wait, for sure. You can spend 20 coins to replenish your lives, and the only packs sold are 20 coins for $1 or 110 coins for $5, so it's about a buck either way. Likewise, if you get to the end of a particularly tricky stage and you're only a couple moves away from completion, 20 coins will buy you five more moves. I did that a few times, having spent $5 on the large coin pack, but the investment never really seemed necessary. A little strategy and skillful popping can get you through most stages without too many headaches.

Dodo Pop also has a couple of paid power-ups: one that lets you eliminate any single gumball on the map (useful for clearing a path for big bunches), and another that turns all the balls around a chosen one into the same color. At first, I worried that stages would start to rely on these premium perks, making them feel necessary rather than optional--but it never panned out. This really is one of the more balanced, high-profile free games I've encountered in a while. 


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