Commuting Cognition: Miner Mines, Two Touch: Switch

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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Miner Mines

Miner Mines is essentially a Flappy Bird under disguise. You’re moving down a mine, scrolling past coloured rocks on the wall, and must tap to throw a pickaxe at them. Hitting the wall around the rock has you instantly lose the game, as does skipping a rock without hitting it at all. The challenge is in timing your strike so that the pickaxe hits the rock by the time it reaches it.

I call it a Flappy Bird-like because it’s clearly under the impression that super hard hit-or-die mechanics are the secret to virality. The hitboxes are pixel perfect, and the game starts you off immediately as hard as it will ever get, with a single small rock instead of something bigger and easier to hit, having no pretence whatsoever of having a difficulty curve.

This means that the first dozen or so attempts are about a second long, if that much. To add insult to injury, tapping on “retry” will send you back to the main menu, meaning you need to tap twice to get back into the game. It literally takes you longer to respawn than it does to play. This completely annihilates the flow, all but ensuring you will never get addicted to the game. The occasional interstitial ad doesn’t help this either.

There is something interesting here, though. The game starts off with a story cutscene, but here’s the unique bit: it tells you off the bat how much time left there is for the cutscene to play out. In a market where everyone wants to skip to the gameplay as quickly as possible, knowing that the story is gonna be 30 seconds instead of an indeterminate amount of time made me more willing to see it play out. With that said, they should also have hidden the skip button and not display it until the screen is tapped; it’s very easy to skip it by accident or instinct otherwise, effectively cancelling the effect of the timer.

 
Two Touch: Switch

Two Touch: Switch is a match three with a twist: blocks have a colour and a circle in it with another colour, and tapping on them swaps the colours. So instead of moving blocks around, you’re swapping their colours to make the matches.

The board is completely random, so right off the bat you’re very likely to start with blocks matching and being destroyed on their own for several combos at a time, which is really disorienting. Unless you’re actively showing off the mechanic — which, if you are, there needs to be a pause and some sort of highlight to what’s going to happen, otherwise it’s just noise — it’s not a good idea to let your board be completely random and subject to an unpredictable amount of downtime. At the very least, just generate boards until you generate one with no immediate matches.

The mechanic is interesting but really challenging. Blocks only match if both the block colour and the circle colour match, so with four colours for each there are far too many combinations. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if there wasn’t a timer constantly counting down and skipping ahead whenever you make a mismatch, with no way to increase it that i could tell. It’s silly to have a timer in a game already so complex off the bat. Being colourblind i already would not have gotten into a game that uses yellows and greens that i can’t distinguish without straining myself, but with the timer the game is literally impossible for me to play for any significant amount of time.

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