When Gowalla announced last August that they’d be dropping virtual items from their app, the stated reason was a lack of interest, with fewer than half a percent of users actually taking advantage of items. That number looked incredibly suspicious, however, following the considerable outcry that greeted Gowalla’s announcement â€” and even more suspicious when you see the number of apps that have popped up to try to take their place.
Many of those apps â€” including a few built on the foursquare API â€” have missed the mark, ignoring the whimsy, surprise and attention to great design that made Gowalla popular in the first place. Last week a clear category leader emerged with the iOS launch of WallaBee from Ben Dodson Apps.
WallaBee takes a lot of the great features from the virtual items side of Gowalla, without all the check-in (sorry, “story”), local guide and other features that comprised Gowalla’s main service. It packages those features in a beautiful app that’s quick and fun to use and offers some unique features that should appeal to anyone who considers themselves a collector, whether it’s pennies, Pokemon characters or baseball cards.
With WallaBee, you “forage” for items at places nearby (based on a heavily curated list of Gowalla spots Dodson created while building the Highlights app). Each time you forage, you could find a virtual item, honeycombs (the game’s currency) or nothing at all.
Each item belongs to a set. Some of the initial sets include “A Trip to the Circus” and “Fast Times at Wallabee High School.” The goal is to complete each set. Some of the items you’ll be able to find through foraging, while others â€” the especially rare ones â€” may need to be purchased from the Wallabee store using honeycombs. Still others are created by mixing different items together, making them the rarest of the rare.
The app integrates with iOS game center so you can compare your collection to your friends’ and other users’ from around the world. Pro accounts are available via in-app purchases that offer faster foraging, more spots in your “pouch,” and better success rates for finding items and honeycombs.
Foursquare has always appealed to my explorer side, but my collector side always left a soft spot for Gowalla. I’ve tried a few different location-based item collecting games since Gowalla killed items, but Wallabee is definitely the clear leader. It’s whimsical, but quick and simple, making it a fun game to pick up when I’m out and have a few seconds to myself.
What do you think of Wallabee? Have you seen any other apps that come close to replicating Gowalla’s virtual items?
After the jump: screenshots from the Wallabee team showing the app in action.