Commuting Cognition: Drop Wizard Tower, Cobi Shoot!

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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Drop Wizard Tower

Drop Wizard Tower is Bubble Bobble, but streamlined for mobile. The character moves on their own and shoots automatically upon landing on a lower platform. It’s a fine concept and it’s executed well, but i wish they’d eschewed the virtual buttons in favour of just tapping either half of the screen.

The automatic movement feels off at first, and it took me a while to get used to it, but it works well and adds extra challenge in ensuring the character doesn’t drop off ledges until you want them to. I’d be interested to try this out with tap-to-move controls instead of auto-movement, to see which would work best. The automatic shooting is also a very clever way to streamline it, and it also feels off at first but is where a lot of the challenge lies. I entertained the thought of auto-shooting when turning, but that would’ve made it too easy.

After every few levels you get to upgrade a stat on a skill tree, but nowhere is it explained what each icon means. You get a brief text message saying what you upgraded *after* you do it, but even that is easy to miss.

This is another game that features what i’m dubbing a ransom mechanic. An interesting tweak on this is that if you do decide to continue, your current level will be automatically cleared. This is to avoid having the user getting frustrated from losing in the same level over and over again, and in that sense doubles as an accessibility feature, which i quite like.

The rest of the game is good, level design is solid, basically what you’d expect from Nitrome.

 
Cobi Shoot!

Cobi Shoot! is a plate shooter with a twist: instead of a single crosshair you have two, each one fired by tapping on either half of the screen, and that’s surprisingly more impactful than it might sound like.

It’s fascinating how that simple change makes the game far more dynamic, not just in that it becomes more frantic and challenging, but also because it gives you a second chance at any plate you miss; once you learn to take advantage of that, it automatically balances that increase in difficulty. Quite clever.

You start off with only one mode available, in what is essentially a trial version. Interestingly, in addition to the option to purchase the full version, you can also watch an ad to unlock one of the other modes for two hours, essentially “renting” it. That’s a concept that i haven’t seen used often, and i feel like there’s potential to be explored there.

The second mode requires you to shoot fruits while avoiding bombs. Here i feel that the two-crosshair mechanic doesn’t work as well. Because the crosshair automatically aims at the closest target, when you let a bomb pass and a fruit is passing the other way the crosshair freaks out and jumps very suddenly from one target to the other; it feels pretty uncomfortable.

The third mode is a reskin of the first where you shoot ducks instead of plates.

The fourth mode gives each crosshair a different colour, red and blue, and requires you to shoot plates of that colour with the appropriate crosshair. It’s trickier than it sounds, and works well; i could see this being quite interesting as a multiplayer version.

The game is what it is, but it doesn’t really offer much to keep you playing. There are multiple characters available, but those require a full purchase so that’s where my experience ended.

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