Commuting Cognition: Zlatan Legends

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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Zlatan Legends

Zlatan Legends is an arcadey sports/racing game featuring Zlatan, a person i’ve never heard of but who sounds incredible if this game is anything to go by.

This game is a bit hard to explain. It’s ostensibly a racing game, in that the goal is to beat your opponents to the finish line, but the gameplay is pretty unique. You hold and drag to kick a ball in one of eight directions, in a vertical arena. The ball bounces off yellow walls but is destroyed on blue walls, which just means you’ll lose a few seconds before respawning in that location. At any point while the ball is moving you can tap the screen to make Zlatan teleport to the ball’s location, and from there you can once again aim and kick. You do this not only to avoid blue walls but also to collect items and, most importantly, to reset the ball’s diminishing speed and maintain your place in the race.

The mechanic feels great, though i do wonder about the decision of having 8 directions instead of 360. On one hand, it seems somewhat arbitrary and a bit punishing for not landing the shot’s timing perfectly; on the other, and i imagine this was the main intent, it does encourage chaining multiple shots in a row, which is an essential strategy for winning races. It also makes the shots more predictable in a good way, as the ball’s trajectory becomes much easier to follow without having to account for oddly-angled wall bounces.

While you’re theoretically racing against other players, there’s no interaction between you, which is interesting. Essentially the races are time trials, but it feels better to surpass other players than an abstract time limit, or a ghost image that always moves the same way. You can tell they’re pre-recorded because you can pause the game, and the race ends immediately once you cross the finish line, which kills a bit of the magic. However, this also minimises the downtime between races and avoids matchmaking issues, both of which are huge upsides.

I spent two bus rides on this one and still felt like i hadn’t had enough time with it. That’s about as positive a conclusion as i can write. However, it’s also 1GB, and i desperately need the space, so it unfortunately won’t be hanging out on my phone.

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