Commuting Cognition: Beardmen, ELEV8

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 impressions. They also may not be daily, depending on how full the bus is that day.

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Beardmen

Beardmen is Puzzle Quest meets tower defence. You tap on clusters of three or more jewels of a kind to gather mana and use that mana to summon soldiers to the tower defence screen, where they move to attack the opponent’s tower or any enemy units in-between.

This is player vs player, and i’m not sure how well balanced the system is. Each turn has a timer but you can summon units at will, with only a minor cooldown, so if you gather enough mana you could ostensibly spend most of your turn summoning units and only gather mana at the very end, while your opponent can do nothing about it if they have little mana of their own. At first i thought this gave the first player advantage on the game… but the initial state of the board is random, and you can’t predict what jewels will appear when you collect your own, so that balances it out. I’d need to play more to figure out whether it’s balanced or not, but my first instinct is that limiting summoning, maybe to once per turn or only on your opponent’s turn (either of which would probably cause its own set of issues), would feel more balanced.

As is often the case with colour-based games, my colourblindness isn’t fond of the palette their chose for the jewels (specifically purple and blue, if you’re curious). They do use different patterns but they don’t stand out very much, so i need to strain myself a bit to figure out what jewels i need. In a time-based game, this is a huge handicap.

Matches also take quite a bit of time with the tower defence back-and-forth, which limited my playtime, but i didn’t find them boring. Coupled with a Clash Royale loot system and a couple other retention systems, i think the game works quite well. Also the icon is an angry man screaming, so you know it’s legit.

 
ELEV8

ELEV8 is a platformer where the ball you’re controlling is constantly moving in a closed room and you must tap to have it jump onto platforms above, the game ending if it falls out of bounds. Not that that was well conveyed to me at all.

You start off with a prompt to jump into a platform, which immediately rockets up and takes you with it. Except that it’s incredibly simple to accidentally bump into it from the side or below, and it will go off without you. At that point you can still attempt to climb up with the platforms around you, but the jump to the first checkpoint is very tricky to do and it all just feels like you’re delaying your defeat. When you do land on the platform, however, the way it rockets up will almost certainly bump you off to your death thanks to the wonky physics. It took me like 10 attempts to make it past the first checkpoint, which is where the actual game begins with more classically-designed levels with obstacles you’re required to evade. 10 frustrating and confusing attempts just to start the game. Not a brilliant first impression.

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