Commuting Cognition: Swing King, Math Smashers

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 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.


Swing King and the Temple of Bling

Swing King is an action puzzle game that has you swing in four directions from rope to rope to reach the exit, similar to the ice puzzles in Pokémon (yes, that’s my best example).

The mechanic feels weird, most likely because the monkey swings in 360º, but once you let go it snaps to one of the four directions instead of being free-form. It does the job though, and the levels are entertaining enough once you get past that initial weirdness.

My goodwill started to lower after a couple of levels, when the game forces you to either pay coins or watch a video in order to save your progress; do neither, and upon death be returned to the last time you acquiesced to their demands. I don’t think i’d seen this type of monetisation strategy yet and, i must say, it feels absolutely horrible, like your progress is being hold ransom. This is also, as far as i could tell, the only use for the coins you can collect in the levels, so there’s no real motivation to collect them. But here’s the kicker: save or not, after you die there’s a chance you’ll have to see an ad anyway!

As the levels progress more mechanics are thrown in: spikes, sticky blocks, crushing gates; stuff that would be entertaining enough if only my motivation to play hadn’t been destroyed by the relentless ads.

Math Smashers

Math Smashers is a math puzzle game with a simple premise; bubbles with numbers are floating around the screen, and you must join them together to meet the target number.

Once you finish the tutorial the difficulty immediately spikes from single-digits to high double-digits. The tutorial also doesn’t explain that you lose if your character hits one of the bubbles, and when you die there’s a chance that you’ll be forced to watch an ad to continue, or start again from the beginning (including tutorial). Is holding your progress ransom becoming a trend? I don’t like it.

The whole way the mechanic is executed feels like busywork. When you tap a bubble your character throws a rope at it, and when you tap the second bubble a second rope goes out to it from the first, at which point they move towards each other before finally merging. When they do merge they drop coins, which you must collect by moving to them. It all feels so slow and unnecessary. My constant instinct was to swipe the bubbles into eachother, and i feel that that, along with the coins being collected automatically, would be much more streamlined. Having the actual character there moving about doesn’t seem necessary, as you already lose from messing up your math; you could also add an additional loss state if the bubble you were swiping bumped into another one on the way, and bam, faster, simpler, just as challenging.

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