Commuting Cognition: Force Escape

What is this?

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.

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Force Escape

Force Escape is an endless runner where, instead of controlling the runner, your task is to swat away the obstacles on the path.

You control a small orb ahead of a spaceship moving ever-forward, moving against incoming obstacles to push them away from the spaceship; if the spaceship is hit, the game ends. The way you do this is by holding and dragging anywhere on the screen. It feels incredibly weird and unintuitive, and i struggle to understand why they decided this was a better option than just using the touch input outright. I ended up just holding the screen over the orb and moving it as if it was direct touch input, but the smaller size and slower speed made that feel awkward too.

One might argue that direct input would make the game easier but the game is not exactly simple as it is, with the obstacles often being tiny and plentiful and where any single one that slips by the orb will end your game. Making the game easier would lengthen the runs, which to me currently feel far too short to get into any sort of flow, so as far as i can tell direct input would only have upsides. Amigo Pancho 2 did this and it felt quite satisfying.

The game falls into the pitfall that a lot of games using more abstract or geometric art styles fall into: it’s pretty easy to confuse obstacles from the background until it’s too late. Perhaps the orb was an answer to this, since it always moves ahead and will automatically bump into the obstacles, but not only is the solution far from ideal, compromising gameplay rather than compromising art feels like the wrong choice to me. There’s also no sound effects, but i guess most people play on mute anyway.

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