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.
Boundland is a pretty decent platformer that grabbed my attention because of its use of incentives.
You control a little sentient square in a series of levels where the goal is to reach the exit star. To do this, you hold and drag the screen in order to aim and catapult your character forward. You can do this at any time, so chaining jumps in quick succession becomes a necessary skill to navigate around obstacles. We’ve seen a similar mechanic in Zlatan Legends, which i enjoyed quite a bit, but without the slow-motion effect that occurs while you have the screen held down. This makes it feel more frantic and somewhat less skill-based, since you can’t fine-tune your jumps to exactly where you want them, but it works well with the short levels and quick respawns.
The really interesting part of the game to me is in the incentive popups. After you die you’ll just get thrown back to the main menu where you can quickly re-enter the level, or suffer through an interstitial ad, and that’s that. But after a certain amount of deaths, upon re-entering the level, you’ll be given the option to watch an ad in order to get a shield popup, which allows you to survive hitting an obstacle once. I’m all about accessibility, so this type of incentive pleases me immensely. I’m also fond of the trend of giving the option to watch a video ad as an alternative form of currency, which makes the player feel like they’re saving currency while simultaneously making the developers earn revenue from otherwise non-paying customers.
The most interesting incentive of all, which i don’t believe i’ve seen in other games, is a popup that appeared only once to me that allowed me to try out a new skin until my next death. After that death, a new popup gave me the option to purchase the skin (or watch a video for it, in my case). I could see this being very effective in games like Crossy Road where the skin is not just the new character you see, but also a complete overhaul of the environment around you; being able to test-run the skin and seeing that effect in action would be a great draw towards selling the skin. In this game’s case what you see is what you get, so the effect is lessened, but trying-before-buying is still a customer-friendly practice that we could stand to see more of.