Commuting Cognition: BotHeads, Fall Down, Crushy Bricks

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 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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BotHeads

BotHeads is a platformer where you move a little robot left and right to avoid obstacles. For reasons i can’t understand, the game uses virtual buttons for movement instead of just allowing you to tap on either edge of the screen. While moving the robot also slowly floats upward, eschewing the need for a jump button, and that works quite well.

The level design is pretty solid. It takes clear inspiration from Sonic, with elements like springs, loops, pinball flippers and bumpers, and multiple paths. There are also some hearts you can collect but i wasn’t able to understand what they did; they don’t heal damage you’ve taken, nor do they grant you extra lives.

Since the levels aren’t procedurally generated, of course there’s a ransom mechanic in place. Unlike previous games of this sort that i’ve seen, however, this one doesn’t even keep your progress if you close and re-open the app; it expects you to finish the whole game in one siting, in what is probably one of the most fundamental misunderstandings of the platform that i’ve seen so far.

 
Fall Down

Fall Down is a game where your pellet is falling down and… oh, wait, i died before seeing what to do. Okay, you need to tap either edge of the screen to move left or right and avoid the obstacles as they come. This shouldn’t be difficult, people, just start the game paused until the player taps the screen.

This developer’s mantra appears to be “difficulty curves are overrated”. The game features several levels split in several “worlds”, but by the second level of the first world i was already having plenty of trouble. There’s also an endless mode, where the game selects from different pieces and procedurally puts them together, but while also disregarding any semblance of difficulty curve and beginning at silly hard right from the start. Didn’t last too long.

 
Crushy Bricks

Crushy Bricks is a Match 3 puzzle game, where you have a tower of bricks and swipe bricks away to let the rest of the tower fall and make matches.

There’s a fundamental problem with this mechanic. Because you can’t see the blocks that will spawn when the tower falls, you can’t plan ahead and will inevitably end up swiping away blocks that would’ve been useful a few moves later. Now, this works well in time-based levels, because the timer encourages you to move as quickly as possible and not worry about planning. But it does not work well in levels that have a maximum number of moves.

Also, please stop pestering me to log in to Facebook after every match. Make the level threshold higher or, even better, add a session limit please. Goodwill is quickly exhausted.

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