In recent months Foursquare has been moving away from the gaming element of its service, focusing more on its utility as a travel guide. Well, Turf Geography Club, a new iOS game released today that runs on the Foursquare API, is happy to fill the void. The game allows players to check in to locations, but adds a delightful 8-bit universe on top, giving players the chance to own and expand the locations they check in to, earn coins and prizes, and compete with their friends by charging rent in a sort of Monopoly universe based on real venues.

Turf is the brainchild of Michael Tseng and is lovingly crafted down the smallest detail. After graduating with a degree in interaction design, he went to work for several creative agencies, and produced some viral hits, including the Domino's pizza tracker. But in his spare time Tseng worked on Turf, and after it successfully raised funds on Kickstarter, he decided to go full time as an entrepreneur. He created this lengthy Wes Anderson inspired videos to help players get into the Turf universe.

The game has been available in a private beta for several months now, and the results were encouraging enough to attract $600,000 in funding from some notable NY venture capitalists."He had something like one hundred and forty beta testers and they checked in 20,000 in the past few months. That level of engagement is way beyond the norm," said Adam Ludwin, the principal at RRE Ventures who led his firms investment in Turf.

Another sign that got investors interested? The full version of the game released today allows players to purchase virtual goods with real money. But that option was not available to beta testers, so some of them started sending money to Tseng directly. "It was pretty amazing to get a letter from an 11-year-old stuffed with cash asking to buy more coins in Turf," said Tseng. "That was a clear sign the game was clicking with people."