Commuting Cognition: KoKo Fighters

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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KoKo Fighters

KoKo Fighters is a hack ‘n’ slash that eschews virtual buttons, so you know i had to try it.

So the control scheme is interesting. You tap to move, and then perform each of your skills with a different gesture: tap on an enemy to use your first skill, swipe for the second, fling your character for the third, hold for the fourth. More skills are added as you progress, with their own different controls; if that’s beginning to sound overwhelming, that’s because it is.

To me, the gestures felt intuitive enough for the type of skill they activate (swipe for a cyclone attack, fling for a ranged attack), but mileage may vary; and if it does, there’s really nothing in the UI that hints at what you have to do to activate the skill, which may just lock you out of it if you forget. You can remind yourself outside of the dungeon on the upgrade menu, but that won’t help you mid-combat. The triggers for each skill are also similar enough that it becomes easy to use one when you’re trying to use another.

To sidestep these issues you’re given an “Auto” button, which when tapped will use each of your skills until it runs out, and will then move on to the next one. You can, and probably will, use this extensively to make combat much simpler and more mindless. I blame its exaggerated usefulness partially on the fact that all your skills run out, including what should be your basic attack. This means that after using all your skills you’re left running around waiting for their cooldowns to expire — not an insignificant amount of time — which isn’t terribly engaging. I see no reason why your basic attack shouldn’t be infinite, something reliable you could always go back to if your skills were in cooldown — or if you forgot to use them — without having to engage an auto-pilot. It would also allow you to better strategise the use of your other skills, instead of just dumping everything into every enemy.

I certainly appreciate what the game was going for, and i applaud any attempt to move away from virtual buttons. That doesn’t mean all attempts will immediately be successful. But each one is a step forward, and something we can iterate on.

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