Commuting Cognition: Pocket Mine 3

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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Pocket Mine 3

Pocket Mine 3 is a streamlined digger game with a lot of good things going for it.

Your goal is to dig down the level to a specific depth. Digging is as simple as tapping on a tile, regardless of where that tile is; your character will automatically speed towards that tile, building ladders or bridges to get there if necessary, which is both efficient and feels really satisfying. Every time you dig, the durability of your pickax is lowered., with different types of tiles causing different durability damage. The game ends when either your pickax breaks, or the ever-rising ground pushes you off-screen.

On the tutorial, your pickax will break rather quickly. Afterwards you’re taken to the crafting screen, where you’re immediately given a few pieces of gear; notably, a more durable pickax. I love the way this is constructed: you’re immediately encouraged to go back in the game with a better fighting chance, while also being introduced to a system that promises greater replayability.

Speaking of crafting: you can craft four qualities of gear, each strictly better than the last, and you’ll get a random gear piece of that quality. Each quality costs the same amount of a different type of material, and you’re limited in how much of these materials you can carry at once. At first i thought this was a way to discourage hoarding and promoting crafting as soon as you collect the ore. However, a few matches later i learned that you can actually convert 10 of any ore into 1 of the next ore, which to me has the opposite effect: since the gear you get is random, and higher qualities are strictly better, i feel encouraged to hoard all of my materials to eventually convert them into the best material, to craft those exclusively. I doubt that was the intention, as it renders weaker options obsolete, but i’m unsure what the actual intention was.

There’s also a card system which is impressively versatile. At the start of any match you’re shown four cards, one of which representing your character and their special ability, three others representing passive bonuses you’ll have for that round. You can lock any number of cards and shuffle the others for a cost, which increases on each shuffle; all the cards are drawn from the ones you’ve acquired. The neat thing is: if, when opening a pack, you draw a card that gives a bonus to a special tile you don’t yet have, that type of tile will start appearing in the dungeons. So, in addition to granting you bonuses, the cards also work as the unlocking system for new tiles and characters, which is pretty brilliant. However, as far as i can tell, there’s no way to disable cards, so the larger your card pool gets the lower the odds that you’ll actually draw the ones you want. I’m sure this is to encourage spending on reshuffles, but it doesn’t feel great.

As you can probably tell, there’s a ton of opportunities for monetisation here. In addition to promotional packs you can purchase hard or soft currency, both of which are used to purchase card packs, individual cards, and to upgrade both cards AND gear, meaning there’s a pretty limitless gold sink. Notably, you can’t purchase crafting materials, meaning you have to actually play to get some of the content. Every 15 minutes you can also watch a video ad that will double the cash you gain during those 15 minutes, which encourages longer play sessions; the fact that you can choose when to get that boost means you can activate it when you know you have those 15 minutes to spend, making it feel like it’s entirely your choice and not something the game’s pushing onto you.

As if all of this wasn’t enough content you’re also given a ton of seasonal maps at launch, which presumably will cycle regularly. Notably among these is a daily map that works like a daily spin: you’re given one of three paths to dig through, and each one will result in a different treasure. I really appreciate how they integrated this daily bonus — which every game must have, these days — into their core gameplay, though it does also mean that it’s not as instantly gratifying as simply pressing a button when you enter the game. If nothing else, at least it’s different.

I didn’t play the previous Pocket Mines, so i don’t really what’s new and what’s been done, but this one has a lot of good ideas that are implemented very well.

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