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.
MAB is a unique and very complex blend between a fighting game and a card game.
The basic premise of the game is that, each turn, you have a set of action cards you can use. Using a card will prompt you to swipe a trail on the screen, which will make the attack successful if followed precisely. At the end of your turn’s timer, successful actions will be performed against your opponent. Afterwards, on the defence turn, your opponent will launch attacks at you, represented in cutscene form. Each of those attacks can be deflected by swiping on a perpendicular angle at them; if timed right, a follow-up counterattack can be performed by swiping perpendicularly on the prompted line. This flow continues until either player is dealt enough damage to run out of health.
If that sounds complicated for a basic premise, you haven’t seen anything yet. Attacks require Adrenaline, which is accumulated as weaker attacks are performed. Buff/debuff cards require Chi, which is also accumulated as attacks are performed. Cards also have a damage value and a speed value, the latter of which determines how quick the defence cutscene is. Furthermore, cards attack a specific body part, and this body part is considered to be within a body system; in addition to just dealing damage, completely destroying a system will also defeat your opponent.
There’s also a Taunt mechanic, where you can customise a taunt by writing your own text, choosing its voice effects, and even the portrait expressions. It’s pretty funny.
Outside the game you can level up your character with performance points, which can be distributed in any way in any of the THIRTEEN DIFFERENT STATS. They’re pretty straightforward when you take the time to read them, but it’s an extremely overwhelming sight. And, of course, because it’s a card game, you can open card packs and customise your decks.
Needless to say, the tutorial is humongous. I spent two bus rides on the game and just barely finished the first fight.
In my experience with the game, the short turn timer encourages you to go through attacks as quickly as possible, which makes it impossible to strategise, so i just ended up using whatever was available at that point. You do have a planning screen before starting the timer, where you can inspect your cards, so i assume that’s where you’re supposed to plan your actions. However, you have *eight* cards available on each turn, and all of them look pretty much the same, so i found my eyes constantly glazing over all that overwhelming information. After some time analysing them, i think that the artwork is actually representative of the body system you’re attacking; all the artwork is is a few sparkly effects though, so that’s hardly the most intuitive thing in the world. Combine all that information with no way to sort through it and you’ve got a perfect recipe for indecision paralysis.
As for the swiping gameplay, the swipes must be exactly precise or the attack will fail AND that card will be permanently discarded. This feels like a really heavy penalty, especially when the game encourages you to play actions quickly. There’s no reason why there couldn’t be more levels of success, or even just make you retry until you perform the action correctly – the wasted time on the repeated attempts would be its own penalty.
On the defence side the swipes are far more lenient, and i rarely failed one. However, the timing for the counterattacks is eldritch. You’re supposed to block the attacks when they’re close enough to you, but there’s no definition or visual marker for how close close enough is. Even the tutorial doesn’t clarify it; it slows down time but tells you the swipe was too early if you block at that point.
Overall, there’s a lot to process here. I like how unique it is, and there’s certainly potential in its many mechanics, but there is a LOT of room for streamlining and for UI/UX improvements. As it stands, it feels too inaccessible.