Storage Hunters UK: The Game – Review

Title   Storage Hunters UK: The Game
Developer  Game Digits
Publisher  UKTV Media Ltd
Platform  iOS, Android (reviewed)
Genre  Strategy
Release Date  June 18, 2015

Yes, this is a thing.  It’s a thing I may never have known about had it not been for one fateful weekend a few years ago when a couple of GL writers came to spend the weekend with us.  During the usual sessions of witty banter, one of them grabbed the SKY remote and went wandering through the myriad channels before happening across a skinny ex-boxer and his high-haired bedazzled-sweater-wearing wife attempting to gain the material waste of someone’s life for as little as they possibly could, like vultures waiting for a baby zebra to tire itself out. As dirty as it felt, this became compelling viewing for us.

The show was Storage Hunters, and the couple in question were Brandon and Lori (otherwise known as Team Brandori) and they were assholes, but in a good way.  So imagine my surprise when the familiar face of Sean Kelly, the auctioneer, popped up on the Play Store and for less than the price of a watered-down coffee at Starbucks, and carrying a measly 51MB download.  As soon as it opened up on the Tab S, I knew it was going to be cheesy as hell, as the lack of effort put into the presentation was the digital equivalent of someone tearing up newspapers for a ransom note.  Logos lifted from here and there, everything slapped together to roughly resemble what you’d expect to see on the TV… this was either going to be B-Movie level gaming at its best, or worst.

The audio is as lacklustre as the presentation, with Sean’s voice sounding as though it has been recorded specifically for the game, but the other bidders having a very definite ‘badly lifted from the TV show’ feel about them.  It doesn’t jar, per se, but it does make you wonder why the sound guy didn’t at least spend five minutes with a bit of compression and EQ to make them sound remotely similar.  If people can record podcasts featuring people from across the globe and still make them sound like they were in the same room, then a developer expecting to make money from game sales should do the same.

Not having ever watched the UK show, I wasn’t familiar with any of the other cast members, so the thrill of bidding against them and kicking their collective arses wasn’t quite as thrilling as it would have been with Team Brandori, T-Money, Jesse, and Papa Bear.  The premise is exactly the same as the TV show.  You start off with only one of the five locations unlocked – Blackpool – and Sean pops in to tell you how many units we’re about to see on that particular day.  The shutter rolls up on the first locker and you have ten seconds to assess what you can and can’t see before bidding begins.  Sean suggests a starting bid and everyone takes it from there, so it’s a question of whether you hang back and show little interest until the end or go in hell-for-leather and intimidate your opponents.

As you’d probably expect, most of what you see in the locker tends to be trash, with more boxes in view than items.  This could mean that the boxed items are procedurally generated at the end of the auction, depending on how much you’ve actually bid, but it’s probably not the case as it would involve more complicated coding than I feel went into the game.  The fact that you later unlock a perk which allows for an estimator to come in and give you a rough valuation on the contents of the locker (usually accurate to £10 or £20) would further reinforce the fact that the contents are decided prior to any bidding. As you unlock each of the other locations, the quality of the contents tends to increase, so a locker in Oxford will be worth considerably more than one in Blackpool.

When a bid is placed, it naturally prompts the other bidders to get in on the action and steal the unit from under you.  Some of the bidders are more aggressive than others, with ‘Heavy D’ and ‘Natalie & John’ being the most in-your-face of the opponents and Dan appearing to be the most laid back of the five teams.  Along the way you’ll unlock various perks, some of which are intimidation techniques such as Trash Talk, Take Down, and Jostle, while others allow you a heads-up before the auction begins, with X-Ray, Inspect, and Valuation.  As you progress through the game, these perks will stack and allow for up to three different uses, but only for the intimidation.

It’s possible to use these perks to great advantage if the locker looks like it could be a decent earner.  If the contents look like they’re worth more than usual, you can use the Valuation perk prior to bidding.  To save money and ensure a great haul, it’s possible to use all three Take Down perks as soon as bidding begins so you’re left as the only bidder.  This technique works best with the ‘Rare Auction’ invitations, as you’re more or less guaranteed something valuable from these, such as a safe or a rare heirloom.

Once bidding ends on all units, you have option of savouring the reveal by clicking on each item individually to find out its value (or discover the contents of a box, along with the value of the item therein) or  blast through by using the ‘Collect All’ button to have all values revealed simultaneously.  I prefer the former, as I enjoy the antici…pation.  If you uncover a safe in your digging around, a lock-pick must be used to discover what it contains and if you run out of picks you can always buy more for some real-world money.  Chances are, you’ll never use your wallet. I haven’t.

As fun (and disposable) as the whole thing is, there is certainly a lot lacking, thanks to the repetition of the items.  I’m not sure how many different item types there are, but it can’t be many more than twenty or thirty.  The biggest problem comes in the fact that there’s literally no end in sight.  At the time of writing I’ve managed to build up almost £300k, unlocked all perks and locations, and the auctions just keep on coming.  As great as that is, as far as value for money is concerned, it does also mean that there’s no real reason to keep going as there won’t be any ultimate achievement or solution.  It’s just never-ending auctions… forever.

  • Cheap and cheerful
  • Familiar format for those who enjoy the show
  • Requires no skill or manual/mental dexterity whatsoever
  • No annoying paywalls
  • No sign of Brandon & Lori
  • Requires no skill or manual/mental dexterity whatsoever
  • No sign of Brandon & Lori
  • There's literally no end in sight. Ever.
  • Very poor variety in terms of items
  • The whole thing is very lazy, even though it works

What is boils down to is this - Storage Hunters UK: The Game is nothing more than a way for the production company to get a little licensing money through the door. It's not as bad as the old Ocean licensed games where they took an existing game and re-skinned it to fit a certain IP, but there's definitely very little effort involved in the production of this.

I haven't ever allowed myself the time to make a game since I was eleven years old, but I guarantee if I sat down to create a Storage Hunters-based game, I could do better than this. That may be my project for next year. Ultimately, however, it does exactly what it says on the tin - you're put into the shoes of a storage auction scavenger, you bid on lockers, you reap the rewards, and you move on to the next. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with it; it's just mediocre but does its job in the process. Plus it's cheap.

In the words of Sean Kelly... "All in fair warned"

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