Commuting Cognition: Kroko Bongo, Crossy Traffic

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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Kroko Bongo

Kroko Bongo is literally Donkey Kong Country, but as a rhythm game! Disclaimer: i love DKC, and that probably coloured a lot of my feelings for this game.

The game controls exactly as a rhythm game with the platforming being more of a visual overlay, at least for the first level. Your character runs automatically, and tapping when prompted makes it do context-sensitive actions like jumping or destroying barrels.

At the end of each level you get a kind of bonus sequence that behaves more like a traditional rhythm game, requiring you to tap as orbs float into a circle. I didn’t realise this was interactible at first and thought it was just a bonus fanfare type of thing, especially because there was no negative feedback for missing notes. It wasn’t until i felt that it was taking too long that i tried tapping and realised i was supposed to have been tapping from the start.

From the second level onward the tap prompts are completely removed, and i have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, the lack of visual prompts makes the game feel more like a traditional platformer and less like you’re on rails, making it a lot more fun and intense. On the other hand the difficulty spikes immensely, especially when you consider that tap timings are graded.

I feel that the game would benefit a lot from just adding some sort of highlight on interactible objects and obstacles. This is especially relevant for new obstacles you hadn’t yet encountered, doubly so because the art style makes obstacles blend in a lot with the background and it’s hard to tell what’s harmful until it’s too late.
The third level makes this extremely explicit: the biome art changes drastically so everything’s new, and your character’s on a mine cart so your contextual actions are also completely different — tapping while in the first cart makes the character duck, and tapping while in the second cart makes it raise itself up. Needless to say, it’s painfully easy to not realise when you need to tap because you’re not sure what your character will do or what’s an obstacle until it’s too late.

Perhaps this was the intent, to force the player to learn by dying, but that’s a very frustrating way to learn. Frustrating to the point of quitting for me, as i was really enjoying the game until the third level became a wall i kept crashing into over and over again in a way that didn’t feel fair or like it was my fault.

 
Crossy Traffic

Crossy Traffic is an endless runner that doesn’t do anything differently nor especially well. I really should’ve guessed that from the title.

Before you have time to even read the instructions, you’ll probably smash against another car. Seriously, don’t spawn obstacles before the player has time to get their bearings, or just start the game paused and wait for them to tap first.

You control a car moving down a road, and tap on the left/right half of the screen to move in that direction to avoid incoming perpendicular cars. The game has freeflow movement, not lane-based movement, and an *extremely* sensitive one at that, so tapping to move feels really weird. Doubly so due to being in portrait mode instead of landscape. Something like holding and dragging to move would’ve felt much more natural.

I feel like i already wrote all of these points in previous posts. Really need to better filter the games i try.

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