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.
Wagers of War is Hearthstone, but with playing cards. The cards act as monsters which you can cast for a turn, red suits attacking your opponent, and black suits providing defence for you. It’s a really cool idea, with a heavily flawed execution.
The trouble starts with the messy tutorial. The first mechanic that happens in front of you, and is never properly explained, is the mana gathering mechanic. Cards cost mana, and you gain mana each turn, but in a hideously convoluted way. Basically, each player draws a card, and whoever draws a value higher than the other gains 2 mana. The process is repeated for a limited number of times, OR until both players draw cards with the same value. This. Is. Horrible. Not only is it completely random and unbalanced, with the potential to give zero mana to both players or all the mana to one player, it’s also incredibly unfun to go through: it could at least be an automated process, but you have to manually draw each card yourself, for a random amount of time which can go on for a while. This mechanic alone completely destroys the game for me, and it really annoys me, because there’s so much potential in everything else.
In addition to numbered cards you have the face cards, which are unique in that they can each have one of two effects. For example, Queens can switch the suit of any card, or poison your opponent for 4 rounds (where “rounds” means mana gathering, so it usually all takes effect immediately, and is pretty broken). Each card’s abilities are unique and useful, but do not feel well balanced at all (though i’d need more time to see how true that is). You learn the effects of face cards in a mandatory tutorial battle, but we really didn’t need a separate mandatory tutorial for each of the four cards.
You also have spell cards that look more like the Hearthstone cards you may be used to, which have effects like granting you extra armor or deal direct damage to your opponent. You can also swap your hero cards, which bring different starting health/mana and have special effects. You gain all of these Clash Royale style, with boosters that take some time to unlock and multiples that are used for upgrading the card’s level. All fine and good.
This is such a frustrating game. They did so many things right, but the things they did wrong are just infuriating. It could be SO much better than it is.
Leap On is a sort of endless platformer where your character is constantly jumping, and you must tap to move it forward onto platforms which propel you upward, trying to avoid falling into the centre. It’s not original, and i never quite got into the flow, but it’s a fun time waster. As seems to be the case lately, i feel the need to move in both directions instead of just one. I get that it’s part of the challenge, but i don’t feel that it’s necessary, nor that it streamlines the game that much more. I’d need to try it to be sure, though.