Commuting Cognition: Angry Birds Match, Star Squad Heroes

What is this?

I’ve never been a big mobile game player, but I ended up working in a mobile games company (opinions are my own etc), 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 internalising 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-impression brain dumps. They also may not be daily, depending on how full the bus is that day.


Angry Birds Match

Angry Birds Match is pretty much another match-three game, but it has an interesting mechanic that seems poorly utilised.

All the match-three mechanics you’ve grown used to are here. Swipe to swap a tile with another beside it; matching three will destroy them and make the ones on top fall down. Matching four or more will also spawn a powerup tile that can be used to destroy a whole row or larger area. Very standard-fare.

The goal in each level is to get rid of all the pigs, which you do by matching three tiles beside it. That by itself is also pretty standard, but the interesting bit is that the pigs move around the board, swapping themselves with other tiles; matching beside it once just stuns it, making it unable to move, and matching again is what gets rid of it. The pigs never recover from stunning, though, and i feel that’s a missed opportunity: forcing you to make both matches in quick succession would make for more interesting gameplay, as you’d need to chain together two matches before going through with the first one to be most effective. As it stands you can just stun the pig and get to it whenever it’s convenient, so it’s not a terribly meaningful decision.

Cleverly, after the first couple matches you’re given a treasure chest which opens to grant you infinite lives for one-hour, which is a nice incentive to extend the player’s first session and hopefully get them hooked by the end of it. This might work if you’ve never played a match-three game before, or if you somehow really like the Angry Birds movie.

Star Squad Heroes

Star Squad Heroes is an attempt at streamlining FTL, and showcases what happens if you cut too much.

Your first task in the tutorial is to attack and destroy your opponent’s ship. You do this by tapping anywhere on the ship, and your laser cannon will fire against it. Then you wait two seconds for the cooldown, and tap again. Each attack removes about 3% of the opponent’s health, so you can expect to do this for a good couple of minutes. That’s a wonderful first impression. On the second tutorial you’re introduced to the new mechanic of having TWO cannons, and therefore only requiring about ONE minute to destroy your target!

Your opponent’s ships have different rooms which you can target but they’re all pretty small, so it’s hard to tell what does what and to target the correct ones. This is especially problematic because you need to tap on the same room repeatedly to fire at it; a better solution would be to just tap on a room to target it and have the selected cannon automatically fire at it, and i’m not sure why they didn’t go that way.

Ultimately it doesn’t really matter what you target, though, because almost all rooms you can build are just different weapons. There’s one that activates a shield, but that’s it as far as i could tell. This makes battles boring and repetitive from the get to and shows no real potential to improve.

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