Commuting Cognition: GX Monsters, X-Tanks, Platforms

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.

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GX Monsters

GX Monsters is a classic 2D Motocross Racing game, with monster trucks.

Right off the bat the controls aren’t what i’d traditionally expect from this type of game on mobile. You have a bunch of on-screen buttons, including two for turning left and right, one for accelerating, and one for braking. I never used the brakes, and see little reason for the accelerator to have its own button instead of being automatic. Then, by removing those buttons, you could easily remove the buttons for turning just by tapping on either half of the screen, and voila, decluttered.

In addition to the unnecessarily cluttered controls, the game actively encourages you to avoid doing stunts and just landing correctly, granting you constant speed boosts for doing so. Again, this is completely contrary to what i’d expect from this type of game, and both makes the game much more boring but much easier as well. In fact, in the 5 or 6 matches i made, never once did i feel any sort of challenge.

Further criticisms include:
The tutorials: a screen explaining how to turn appears at the start of EVERY SINGLE match, and the tutorial flow forces you to buy a car in order to progress, which is a pretty big pet peeve of mine. Even if you’re given the currency immediately before, which you’re not in this case, it never feels good to be forced to spend it.
The sound effects: are non-existent, which, again, this is a racing game, how can you have no sound effects?
The loot boxes: i got a couple of loot boxes and they both opened up to reveal some cash, which is the opposite of exciting. If you’re gonna have a loot box make it give it more than currency, otherwise just give out that currency outright.

Ultimately this is a pretty dull game that takes no advantage of the mechanics that traditionally make the genre appealing, and as such gave me no reason to keep it.

 
X-Tanks Battles- 3D Tank Shooter Game World War 3

Since we’re on the topic of many on-screen buttons: X-Tanks Battles – Lorem Ipsum Dolor Sit Amet is a tank game that really wants to be a PC game.

Static virtual joysticks are another big pet peeve of mine. You could move by holding down anywhere on the screen and have other buttons, or move with a joystick and use the screen for something else, but filling your screen with buttons feels like a fundamental misunderstanding of the platform. At that point i’m just playing a worse version of something i could be playing on a laptop, or a Switch.

Disclaimer: it’s very true that i’m not the target audience for this, as evidenced by the character designs attempting to appeal to the stereotypical hardcore gamer boys. No, seriously, in what planet does this character look like a general? If you absolutely must pander to that audience – and if you feel that need then clearly you don’t trust your game enough on its own merits – then the very least you could do is attempt to keep some semblance of realism.

I realize i just went on a rant for this one and barely talked about the game, but this very quickly hit all the right buttons to annoy me and uninstall it. On the bright side, that gave me enough time to play a third game!

 
PLATFORMS – Endless Arcade Hopper

Platforms is a platformer, as the name implies, that has you bounce forward from platform to platform by holding down the screen to charge your jumps.

The jump mechanic is cute and works well, but changing direction is muddled a bit by the fact you need to swipe in the direction you want to go to, which often ended up with me covering the jump charge with my finger. This wasn’t a deal breaker for me, but i feel that it could’ve been implemented better.

Standing on a block for too long makes the block fall, and i have a couple of issues with that.
First, the feedback for the block falling is pretty terrible: the block slowly changes colour to red, stays at red for a bit, and then falls with no ceremony. You have no way of knowing *exactly* when the block is going to fall, and the colour shift isn’t significant enough to draw your attention when you’re focused on the blocks ahead (not to mention being colourblind unfriendly). It would’ve been so easy to just make the block start shaking, it’s only one of the oldest mechanics in the book.
My second issue with the blocks falling is a design one. The jump charge mechanic encourages you to take your time and find the right charge, which naturally slows the pace of the game. A block falling mechanic does the opposite, encouraging you to move as quickly as possible, so you end up sending mixed messages to the player. The screen is already trying to catch up with the player; making that movement faster would have a similar effect of adding tension without the need for an extra timer per platform.

In addition to the overall slow pace, the game itself doesn’t reinvent itself much, so it gets repetitive quick. There’s a shop where you can buy skins gacha-style with in-game currency, but the first purchase requires 100 crystals. For perspective, on my first game i collected something like 5 crystals. This feels needlessly prohibitive for a first purchase; you need something to hook the player with quickly, and cheaper purchases with incremental costs could’ve been a way to go about that. As it stands, i felt nothing compelling me to stay.

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