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 impressions. They also may not be daily, depending on how full the bus is that day.
Snoopy Pop is Puzzle Bobble. That’s pretty much it. It’s a King-style +1 of the original, level-based with a few updates like powerups and whatnot, nothing mindblowing. It’s not bad, it definitely does the trick if you’re feeling like some Puzzle Bobble, but i don’t feel that there is much to learn from it.
There is one thing to *not* learn from it, though: if your entire game is displayed in portrait mode, please don’t display cutscenes in landscape.
A Planet of Mine is a strategy game, ostensibly. You have a small planet segmented into tiles, and tap on those tiles to build stuff. Honestly i couldn’t figure out what was going on, and there were barely any tutorials to be found. Let me narrate you through my experience:
The game is asking me to build houses. I tapped on the empty tiles and did so, but nothing was happening, construction on them wasn’t beginning. I catch a message stating that i should assign a villager to it, but there’s no way to do that that i could tell; probably don’t even have any left, because two of them were working on a plantation thing. So i tap on the plantation thing, try to reassign the villager, but there’s no way to do that that i could tell. Already pretty annoyed, i tried to destroy the plantation to get my villager back, but the villager died along with the plantation for no good reason. At that point i just gave up.
It’s a shame that the game is so obtuse, because i see a lot of potential in it. The tile-based system is a perfect way to streamline the genre, removing that extra step of placing the building and just making the whole thing a lot more instantly recognisable. You can also spin your planet clockwise to fast-forward time, which is just genius. Alas.
Golden Path Quest is a mess. Ostensibly a platformer, it requires you to hold down the screen to charge your animal’s jump, then release to make it jump to the next platform. It doesn’t work.
The physics are horrible, half of the time your jumps will be useless, and there is barely any feedback to guide you through it: as you hold the screen the animal flattens, indicating it’s charging, but at the point that it stops flattening you can continue to hold down the screen and charge the jump further; in fact, you’re *required* to this to make the higher jumps, even though it’s entirely non-intuitive. Don’t jump too high though, because you’ll die if you touch the sky, for no good reason. Gods.
Ok, this one’s cool. Ruins of Glitterdeep is a sort of turn-based puzzle game, where you place tiles Pipe Dream-style to create a path for your adventurer to reach treasure chests, while avoiding goblins who move after you move.
This is a neat mechanic. Most of the tiles are walled in one or two sides, and i like the strategy involved in building a path to the treasure while attempting to wall off the goblins. The strategy does feel a little unneccessary, however, because the goblins seem to move randomly instead of trying to move toward you for some reason.
An energy system is in place, limiting the number of times you can play, and it surprised me to realise that i hadn’t seen one of those in quite some time. I wonder why it fell out of favour; i’m certainly not a fan of it, but at least it’s not as bad as a ransom mechanic.
There’s also an armour system in addition to a health system, though this seems a little redundant: as far as i could tell, all that one point of armour does is reduce damage by one and then it breaks, so it works exactly the same as if you just had one extra health. Maybe it actually *halves* damage (enemies were dealing 2 damage to me); i didn’t play enough to figure that out, but it would make more sense, otherwise there’s no real point to it. A lot of games do this, adding extra systems just because they make sense thematically, even though they’re just adding unnecessary redundancy.
In addition to buying stat upgrades, you can also buy extra tiles with special effects. I didn’t play long enough to see if extra tiles were also given organically in new levels but, if not, they most definitely should be. You don’t want to hold out on new mechanics until the player realises that there’s a shop; if they never do, the game will end up feeling stale and the player could just quit without realising there was more to it.
Although it looks good, the whole thing feels slow. Not unbearably so, but more than it should. I get that they’re going for a board game aesthetic, but the animations of picking up and moving the characters feel too long and make the game less dynamic. The single-tile movement also doesn’t help much; being able to tap on a tile further away and having the character make their way to it, while playing the goblin turns in sequence, would go a long way to speeding up the game.