REVIEW: Yoga Retreat
Title: Yoga Retreat
Developer: Gajatri Studios
TL;DR: Facebook clicker with a yoga twist & cat
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When I volunteered to review Yoga Retreat, it was a bit of a smirk. I actually wrote to GGS Gamer Fearless Leader Vikki, “Don’t laugh…I kind of want to check this out. It is the least core game ever, and I’ve written 2 preview stories on it.” For reference: Here’s the first, here’s the second. These stories were kind of tongue-in-cheek, but only kind of. I really do love quirky game experiences, and I admire Gajatri Studios for making a statement as bold as:
Now I know what you’re thinking – “Why on earth would I be interested in a game about Yoga? And it’s on Facebook??” Well, it’s from a company trying to do something a bit different in a creatively bankrupt industry dominated by First-Person Shooters.
A bit stressed? The relentless pace of modern life wearing you down? Broken one too many game controllers because of that hideously unbalanced end of level boss?
You need a little gaming oasis in your everyday life to bring that blood pressure down!
How can you not be charmed by a ham-fistedly passionate Facebook yoga game that’s picking such an unwinnable fight? Sometimes, I just like embracing the strange. I also enjoy putting myself into awkward situations, just to see how they play out. And so…here we are.
How does one “review” what’s essentially a cow-clicker Facebook game with tranquil music and yoga mats?
Is there even a “game” to be played?
Certainly, there is. It may not be as intense as, say, a Grand Theft Auto game, but there are things to do, skills to learn, and levels to gain. You probably know the drill. Over time, you gain levels and in-game currency, which you can use to purchase new items to expand and improve your little yoga resort. Some of them, you’ll be able to get through good, old-fashioned elbow (index finger?) grease. Others, you’ll be urged to spend actual money to unlock. Such is the reality of modern games of this kind, can’t really fault Yoga Retreat for embracing the established model.
This review takes an even more bizarre turn, however; as a reviewer, Gajatri awarded me tons of free, in-game currency. As such, I’ve been able to simply unlock the items, resort expansions and new yoga poses for which you’re supposed to invest time and effort. That’s not to say I haven’t had to play the game. You can’t unlock some items until you reach a certain level. That said, it was pretty easy to level up because I was able to speed things up with play session-extending energy drinks and other lovely shortcuts not available to the masses.
The emotional connection and tenacity inspired by having invested a large amount of time working your way up toward a specific reward – like adding a Juice Bar to your resort – were suddenly taken out of the equation.
So…am I still playing a video game? Are am I just ticking items off a checklist until I reach some kind of “end?”
What’s real and what’s a dream?
Am I still alive?
Maybe this is a meta-review, some kind of review of a review?
Let’s do this thing. Read along and see what it becomes, because I have no idea what shape this review is going to take as of right now. And it’s already getting long.
In Yoga Retreat, you play as an instructor I’ll call Yoga Dude. As Yoga Dude, you instruct ailing guys and gals who wander into your resort in the ancient art of twisty, bendy exercises. As you play and become a better teacher (level up!), you can practice new poses from a beefy catalog. Once you practice a move enough times, you can then teach it to your guests. When a guest successfully completes an exercise, you receive cash and experience points.
If the guest has a problem during an exercise, he or she will glow yellow; you’ll need to click on him or her before too much time passes to “correct” the issue.
If you don’t, you’ll have a pissy guest. No one wants that, especially when one is trying to build a respectable and successful yoga retreat!
The in-game currency allows you to buy a variety of items to pimp your resort. You’ll be able to upgrade to better yoga mats (the initial mats fall apart after a few uses, and you’ll want to purchase sturdier ones ASAP), nicer decor (plants, statues, floor tiles, guest seating, colored umbrellas/roofing), yoga platform extensions, new buildings (like a steam room and juice bar) and more. There’s no shortage of stuff to buy, and you’ll certainly want to invest in both the structural and the aesthetic quality of your resort.
The real-world/dollars system allows you to take shortcuts. You can unlock yoga poses without practicing, or fast-forward your own practices so you can learn a move faster/get up, help a customer who’s having trouble, etc. You can only purchase some items in the catalog with this “second” currency. As I mentioned, I was given a buttload of it to start, so…I’ve been able to zip ahead a lot faster than many other yoga instructors will.
There’s a Yoga Cat.
He offers tips and challenges. You can visit HIS resort, which is fully-loaded. Doesn’t impact your game very much, but he’s there and bears mentioning.
You’ll improve your resort’s reputation and improve as an instructor through Quests. It could be something as simple as “pick up 20 leaves” or as complex as “fully cure a guest’s ailment through a long series of stretches.” Some Quests will have you practicing a new yoga pose a certain number of times, buying stuff from the in-game store, or working toward the grand opening of that coveted juice bar.
There’s fruit to pick. When you have a juice bar, you can press it into drinks for your guests. Some of these guests will require specific juices to be “cured” of ailments. To get non-native fruits, you’ll have to either shell out some of that that real-world “second” currency, or maybe visit friends’ resorts and see if you can find it there. I think. I’ve only visited Yoga Cat’s resort, to be honest. And I’ve never picked anything up there. That’s very Animal Crossing, though. Isn’t it?
So, you visit, you click, you reach the end of your energy bar, leave a few guests meditating so you can come back to more money…and you repeat as often as your attention span/the game’s circadian rhythm warrants. People play Facebook games all the time, and they get hooked. If it become habit, you’ll be rewarded with bonus coins for visiting every day without slacking.
It’s a perfectly fine time-waster overall, but…Yoga Retreat has its flaws.
My Yoga Dude has “locked-up” or simply disappeared on more than one occasion. Unable to move, he can’t execute any of the commands I’ve issued. If a yoga student needs help with an exercise while he’s in this bizarre frozen state, he or she is screwed. That leads to an angry customer (you actually have to smooth things over) and a frustrated player. The only way to regain control of Yoga Dude when this happens is to exit out of the game and start it up again.
I’ve also been unable to “like” the game, for some reason. What’s that about? Isn’t that basic Facebook functionality? Don’t know who gets the blame on that count…but I’ll say Zuck.
These games are meant to be played for the long haul. You’re supposed to invest time and take pride in your awesome, customized resort. I like mine just fine and all, but I don’t have any friends to show it off to and this is a bit of a lonely experience for me. I’d invite another player to join so I can check out the “multiplayer” social aspects (gift giving is one, I think), but I don’t know who to recruit. This is a game for a very specific niche audience.
I can see how people become addicted to these, and how they could reach the point of spending real money to help move things along, though. You want to keep going, and the game’s achievements, small and large, are always there, always just out of reach, always beckoning. Besides, the game itself was free. If you’re enjoying the experience, why not drop the developers a few bucks and continue your enjoyment? Many games “core” gamers are less likely to scoff at follow this model, right Hero Academy?
Why wouldn’t you pay for a game you’re enjoying? You mooch.
So, as maddening and baffling as the paywall/spend-actual-money model is, I see how a person could get sucked in to the point of ponying up. And I don’t even mean “sucked in” in a bad way.
If a game is your cup of chai, it’s your cup of chai. I’m not here to judge, I’m here to love. Actually, I’m here to judge – Yoga Retreat, at least.
When you level up, you feel like a Yoga God. You energy bar is refilled, and you can continue busting moves like Yoga Jagger™. When you help cure some cute, little lass of her chronic back pain through a series of exercises, you feel like you’ve accomplished something. Kind of. There’s no dialogue, so you haven’t really established a connection with the NPC customers, but…c’mon. It is what it is.
I am annoyed that there are so few NPC models, though. The same “person” keeps coming and going, with different names. Sometimes, two of the same “person” will be wandering around your resort at the same time. Maybe they’re twins? Who knows. But it’s hard to treat them as individuals when they’re obviously just respawning sprites with concentration problems to fix through yoga stretches and smoothies.
Not for all gamers, obviously, Yoga Retreat does offer a retreat from all the word-spelling and farm-clicking and color-matching stuff out there. And it’s certainly the polar opposite of an intense, heavy-artillery FPS.
If you can’t derive any pleasure from picking up fallen leaves to keep your resort looking neat and tidy (it’ll affect your reputation), you require way too much stimulus to be entertained. Get into it.
Give it a look and see if you get sucked in. It’s not bad, but it’s hardly the most incredible, life-altering experience you’ll ever have. A Facebook clicker to the end, Yoga Retreat is your chance to play this style of game within a new environment.
I’m glad I did this review. It offers new perspective of a real part of casual gaming culture that most “real” gamers usually just sniff at. I have walked a mile in their shoes…or I would have if anyone wore shoes in Yoga Retreat.
It does love what it’s doing, and I’ll give Gajatri Studios credit. You’ll learn about a lot of yoga poses, and the Teach Yourself™ option actually gives you the chance to learn the poses in the game yourself!
Please don’t just suddenly start trying to pull off intense yoga stretches. You’ll hurt yourself and none of us will be around to take video and laugh at you. I mean…call the ambulance.
Yoga mastery takes years and years of patient training and diligence. Take a class or two. Or simply head to my resort; I’m a wonderful and attentive instructor!
I promise, I’ll click on you the second you start to glow yellow. Unless I mysteriously become frozen in time while trying to pick up leaves off the yoga mats. In that case, you’re on your own, human pretzel…
- A lot of things to buy/unlock ensure you’ll always be working toward some goal.
- It is the relaxing, mind-clearing experience Gajatri promised!
- You may actually gain applicable yoga knowledge and/or develop an interest in the discipline. Teach Yourself mode is actually educational.
- I can see how this game could become addictive. Wait…is that a good or bad thing?
- My Yoga Dude would just freeze/disappear, occasionally.
- You may well be frustrated by the pace of your progress if you’re not willing to shell out a little dough to help get things moving…patience is key.
- When clicking & dragging to another part of your resort, map will sometimes continue to scroll/drag after you release the mouse button.
- Lifeless NPC guests.
- Damn leaves are everywhere, again! Can’t I hire some help? Where’s Yoga Cat?!
Nothing questionable here. Just a chill, click-based yoga experience. Kid wants to click? Let the kid click.