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.
Flipping Legend is a spin on Crossy Road (what do we call that genre? Endless Hopper?) that has you moving diagonally instead of forward / sideways. It’s a surprisingly simple tweak and yet it dramatically changes the game.
Instead of dodging incoming obstacles, you have to dodge spike trap tiles while landing and subsequently killing enemies, which restores your ever-decreasing health. Having that timer counting down forces you to think and move quickly, keeping the game challenging and the pace frenetic and engaging. Being able to jump backwards and to jump off the screen and land on the other side ensure that the trap tiles remain challenging and never really get repetitive. Paired with the super straightforward controls, it’s very easy to get in the flow and lose yourself into several plays in a row.
Instead of randomly unlocking new characters, you have a selection of characters you can buy with in-game currency, each corresponding to a different “class”, and what you randomly unlock are skins for those characters. The really interesting bit, however, is the characters have a skill tree which you can put points into and (presumably) play differently from each other. I haven’t put enough time into the game to discover how different the characters are, but i intend to find out. This might just replace Crossy Road as my go-to time waster, and that’s about as high a praise as i can give.
Candy Shake Cup is a match-three (match-two, in this case) game with a twist: the candies you’re matching are slowly falling into a cup, and you can shake your phone to shake them around.
The shaking mechanic is really interesting. It serves no real apparent function at first because you have no real incentive to let the candies stack, as opposed to immediately popping them when you have two or more. However, as you progress, levels start gaining objectives like “Pop three candies four times”, which forces you to let the candies stack and inevitably end up using the shaking mechanic. It’s quite clever.
I’m not entirely convinced about the slow dripping of candy, though. Especially in the first levels, when you have no incentive to stack them, it just ends up feeling like the game’s purposely wasting your time. I imagine you feel grateful for the slow dripping in more advanced levels, but it’s not gripping in the first few levels at all, where you absolutely want to hold the player’s attention. Perhaps having the stacking objectives start earlier, say in the second level instead of the fourth level, might help with this.
There are a couple of criticisms i have about the game.
Some candies act as bombs which, as far as i could tell, clear the entire screen of candy, and this is ridiculously overpowered. By just letting candy fall and popping a bomb, you can clear levels instantly. I feel that these should be consumable powerups that you can bring into levels instead of just randomly spawning them in levels.
Then there’s just the overall presentation. The game feels unpolished, especially the physics: candies snap into eachother when they land in really jarring ways, which is particularly noticeable when shaking them about, meaning you basically cannot miss it. The title screen, literally the first thing i saw when entering the game, is cluttered with not particularly appealing buttons. One of them even had its text going out of the button. There’s just a level of polish we expect from games, *especially* match-three games which have been granted really high production values by the likes of King and Popcap, and you must attempt to match that in order to compete.
With all of that said, there’s just something really intriguing about this overall concept. It’s very telling that i’m willing to overlook the presentation and pacing issues in favour of its mechanics. I intend to investigate this one further.