Commuting Cognition: Castle Revenge, Monkey Ropes

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.


Castle Revenge

Castle Revenge, the latest game in the Screaming Angry Man Icon series, is a half-castle builder half-slingshot action game.

You start off with a tutorial that explains the basic mechanics, but once the tutorial ends you’re left with an overwhelming amount of icons and menus that they didn’t think were important to cover. Chief among these are ammunition types, which apparently are consumable, but we’ll get there.

There’s two sides to the game. The first part has you construct your castle by purchasing rooms and fortifications, and arranging them at your leisure. The second part has you using a catapult to destroy the castles of other players. So it’s essentially Angry Birds with a built-in level editor, which is pretty interesting. I definitely feel that there’s potential in a more streamlined version of this, by which i mean a version that doesn’t have three distinct types of currency for no apparent reason.

The downside to the castle builder is that it’s strictly passive; you build it to fend off attackers which might strike while you’re offline, and there’s really no interaction to be had there. Pretty standard stuff in this type of game, but it’s not something that appeals to me personally.

As for the attacking part, it does basically play like Angry Birds, but the controls are iffy. It’s very easy to misfire with the catapult when you’re lifting your finger. It’s also very easy to accidentally start firing when the catapult is at the edge of the screen, meaning you can’t pull back enough to fire at the castle; a simple screen pan to recenter the catapult would’ve fixed this. And then there’s the multiple ammunition bit which was never explained. You start off with three types of ammunition, one of which a useless boomerang that doesn’t even reach the castle, and all of them are consumable; something i only discovered when i entered my second match and was out of the “default” ammo. So add a fourth currency to the mix.

Ultimately, this feels like a case of excessive monetisation and needless complexity covering up what could be interesting mechanics.

Monkey Ropes

Monkey Ropes is a platformer that gives you control of two monkeys tied by a rope. Tapping the screen makes one of the monkeys jump forward, tapping it again makes the other monkey jump forward. Simple stuff.

One of the most glaring issues of the game is the camera, which is centered on both monkeys at all times. This means that you can see where the platform next to you ends but not where the other one starts, forcing you to make a leap of faith and likely fall to your doom; this happened to me literally 2 seconds in. If you really want to show both monkeys at all times the camera should zoom out, but an easier solution would be to just have it panned towards the monkey in front.

The rope also has a maximum length, meaning it will pull on the other monkey if you jump too far, often pulling it into a chasm. While i can appreciate the “realism” and the fact that it makes the game harder, there’s nothing fun about not being able to predict if your monkey’s position is going to arbitrarily change. Having the stationary monkey fixed in place would make the game feel more reliable and fair.

It’s an interesting mechanic, however. It shines most clearly when one of your monkeys is falling down a cliff and you frantically try to use your other monkey to drag it up, making for really fun moments in a similar way as ragdoll physics do. It’s unfortunately not well executed, though.

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