Commuting Cognition: Game of Coinball, Battleboats.io

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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Game of Coinball

Game of Coinball is a weird sports game, played with coins, that took me quite a bit to understand.

English clearly isn’t the developers’ first language, so the extensive tutorial had quite a few messages that i couldn’t understand. This could’ve been solved by a more visual approach to the tutorials rather than relying solely on text, which should be the standard anyway, especially if you know that’s a weak point of yours.

The tutorial messages also can only be dismissed by tapping on them, instead of the more common tap-anywhere. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, it’s pretty annoying; on the other, it prevents accidental skipping and helps ensure that the player’s actually reading; on the third hand, there are better ways to avoid accidental skipping than forcing the player’s controls (input delay, better highlighting, etc.), so i guess my feelings on this aren’t mixed at all.

Once the tutorial ends, you’re presented with a screen where you can improve your players and your goalkeeper i think, i didn’t quite get all of it, but it was overwhelming so i just went with the default and started a match. I approached the game thinking it was like Soccer Stars, because the premise looked similar; in that game, on each turn you move one of your pieces, then the turn goes to your opponent. On my first few turns, all my plays ended up doing fouls and offsides for reasons i had trouble understanding; meanwhile, the opponent’s AI was making unlimited moves with their coins and at one point scored three goals in a row. So, definitely not turn-based.

It took me a few turns, but finally i managed to figure out how the gameplay works. You control three coins, and move them by dragging back and releasing, slingshot style. The trick is: in order to make a move that doesn’t end in a foul, the coin that is moving must pass between the other two coins. That’s it, that’s all i was missing. On the defence side you control a nail acting as a goalkeeper, and can move it left and right in real-time by swiping.

The asymmetric controls on the offensive and defensive sides are intriguing, but the offensive mechanic seems just a bit too convoluted to me. In particular, it makes the attacker’s moves very predictable. From the AI’s behaviour the intended playstyle appears to be small, quick passes to attempt to confuse the defender, but this seems not only not very effective, but quite boring too.

 
Battleboats.io

Battleboats.io is a multiplayer ship battle arena. That could be all it was, but intriguingly it features a secondary playstyle that i’ll get into in a second.

The controls are weird. You use a virtual joystick to move, which i already dislike by default, but it feels especially bad to use for the kind of slow and deliberate movement used for ships. To attack other ships, you tap on a button to load cones on either side of the ship, which you then tap to fire from. So you attack other ships sideways, which makes sense, but i hardly ever got it to work. This latter part i did not learn from the tutorial, which glitched when it was supposed to spawn an enemy ship but never did.

Let’s get to that second playstyle, though. Your ultimate goal in the match is to lead a bomb from your team’s base to the enemy team’s base, and you achieve this by collecting bomb crates, scattered across the arena. What this means is that you can theoretically win the game by never attacking other ships at all, and just focusing on collecting crates. This is very similar to how Splatoon did its own passive victory mechanic, and i like it. Alternate playstyles in team-based matches are not only intriguing from a teamwork standpoint, allowing for the organic rise of “roles”, but they’re also great in terms of accessibility, allowing players who may not have the reflexes needed for direct combat to still be able to help their team in a significant way.

Overall the concept is interesting but, as with most games that use virtual joysticks, it’s just another of those games that i just feel would be executed much better on browser rather than mobile.

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