Commuting Cognition: 66 Balls

What is this?

I’ve never been a big mobile game player, but I ended up working in a mobile games company, so I’ve been trying to expose myself to more games in this market and attempt to gain an ever-better understanding of them. One of the ways I’ve been doing that is in trying out new games, seeing what they do wrong and right, and try to draw conclusions from them that I can use in the future to make our games better. One of the resources I’ve been using for this is TouchArcade (not sponsored), and their columns listing the new iOS games of the week.

This resulted in me playing a lot more new games during my daily bus rides, but I also feel the need to discuss them somewhere and keep a log of my thoughts instead of just internalizing them. So, Commuting Cognition. These will be brief, bus-ride-long thoughts on these games, and should be seen less as reviews and more as first impressions. They also may not be daily, depending on how full the bus is that day.

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66 Balls

66 Balls is an interesting one. I guess the closest i could compare it to is Peggle, in that you shoot pellets in an attempt to have them land on buckets moving below. The difference here is twofold: the pellets all follow a predetermined path, of varying length and shape between levels, and you can shoot any number of pellets at a time. The challenge lies in landing as many pellets in the buckets as possible.

It’s a fun mechanic, but it has one big flaw: a feedback loop that lets you play longer the better you’re doing. You have a limited number of pellets, but every pellet that lands on a bucket can be reused, which effectively means that levels can theoretically go on forever. The problem with this is that it makes levels far too long for something that just has you repeat the same action over and over again.

Levels only end once you run out of pellets. There’s a target score you must achieve to progress, but this isn’t visible anywhere; there’s a minor sound effect when you reach that target, but it’s very easy to miss, especially the first time you play it and aren’t looking for it. This meant that by the time i finished the first level, and got both my score and the target score, i had almost 5 times as many points as needed. For the second level i just listened for the target score and threw all my pellets away after reaching it, because there is zero incentive to go beyond the score; quite the opposite, in fact.

This is a case where a very simple tweak makes or breaks a game for me. Had they removed the feedback loop, sticking to a fixed amount of pellets and not recovering them as you scored them, the levels would’ve been much faster and more captivating. Instead, having the feedback loop meant i only got to play a couple of levels during my bus ride, the first of which was boring, ultimately sullying my first impression of the game and guaranteeing i won’t be going back to it.

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