Game Reviews

Game Reviews, Guest Post

Top 10 Celebrity games for mobile

Leveraging celebrities in your apps has become more popular in the last few years. One advantage of having your game endorsed by a celebrity is that fans of the celebrity will likely download and try the game. In addition, you get an almost automatic featuring by the app stores when you include a celebrity in your game. A 3rd benefit is that even users who are not fans per se are more likely to feel familiar with the game when they see an ad for it. This translates into higher conversion rates and lower CPI for acquiring new users.

Another advantage of using the star power is that your game stands out naturally. Most game companies face a problem since innovating in game-design is dangerous and sticking to proven models guarantees optimal retention and monetization mechanics. The flip side of sticking to familiar game patterns is that it’s hard to differentiate your game. Using a celebrity, however, lets you enjoy proven game designs while still having a way to stand out.

The List – here are the best celebrity games for mobile

While there are a lot of games out there crafted upon celebs, I have decided to pick 10 games of my choice in this post. While I have played most of them, I like the remaining ones for some reason or other. So let’s begin with the count-

Gordon Ramsay Dash

This is new and fresh and it had to do good by all means. Being a Gordon fan myself, I was anticipating this game for some time now. The game brings in a mix of world tours, customizable chefs and an online leaderboard where users can challenge their friends. But the best thing about this game is Gordon’s presence throughout the challenges.

A Facebook post for the game

A Facebook post for the game

One of the best thing about making a celebrity game is that it demands minimal marketing effort to get noticed. Once, the update is out through social accounts of the celebrity, it draws anticipation.

Gordon has been sharing updates about this game since some time and as expected it started acquiring users from the point it was launched.

Kim Kardashian Hollywood

Kim Kardashian has a huge fan following and the game benefitted from that immensely. However, what Glu got right with this one is the gameplay. When it comes to Kim, it is the lifestyle and paparazzi that entice her fans. The gameplay unfolds from the POV of a Kim Kardashian fan and this is what makes it great. Having Kim handover power-ups and goodies feels fascinating.


It is one of the greatest money-spinners in the celebrity game genre till date. According to Forbes, the game has brought 100 million since launch. The in-app purchase within the game offers a variety of items that brings in a lot of sales.

Sniper X-

Sniper X revolves around Jason Statham. The game is rated for 18+ users so expect a lot of violence and action. In other words, it is raw stuff straight away. As it is with every celeb game, Glu has built this one around social networks. As a part of Statham’s team, you are supposed to dismantle terrorists and rogue states that conventional forces cannot fight with.

As for action, burst fire assault, blasting drones with a shotgun and multiple snipers, keeps the user hooked to it. With more than 5 million installs, the game is among the popular ones released by Glu till date.

Lil Wayne-Sqvad up

I am including this game in this list because it has its own share of followers who have religiously supported and have even suggested ideas to the developers. One of the best thing about this game is a large number of 5-star ratings it has accumulated as compared to 1 and 2 stars. Lil Wayne enjoys massive popularity in the US and the world. With 50 million followers on FB and 27 million on Twitter, releasing a game on Wayne makes sense.

Sqvad up is an endless runner game where the player can make Wayne ride a surfboard through obstacles. Every once in a while, Wayne switches to a drone instead of the surfboard. The obstacles and powerups are mashed appropriately to give an engaging gameplay.

Pewdiepie: Legend of brofist

Pewdiepie earned 7 million from Youtube in 2015. With 47 million subscribers he is one of the undisputed kings of Youtube. Making a game on Pew automatically makes a lot of business sense. And that’s not all, the gameplay feels a lot like the classic Mario, hence drawing a lot from familiarity and cognition. In other words, everybody would give this game a try.

One of the unique things about Legends of brofist is its availability in Paid version only. Yes, there is no in-app purchase for the game. There are real voices of Pew and other popular YouTubers in games. Gameplay includes unlocking youtube stars and challenge among friends.

Katy Perry POP

Another one from Glu mobile that did not do as good as its other titles. One of the reasons seems to be technical deficiencies. There are a lot of one star on the game and the reasons seem to range from notification errors to issues related to loading of the game.

While Katy is a popular celeb on a global scale with 70 m FB followers, the game did not really benefit from it. Although the app allows you to record songs, make videos etc, it did not grow beyond 100k installs on Google play.

A large part of the game remains similar to Kim Kardashian’s Hollywood in which you can create your own avatar. Also, Katy gives instructions and goodies during the gameplay to score points and go ahead in the gameplay.

Tyga Kingin World Tour

Not really a popular one but it was an attempt that deserves some appreciation for sure. It is fundamentally an endless runner game where you run as T-Raww through the “Rack City”. The king is chillin but as soon as people chase him, he begins to run.

You can collect points and power-ups as you jump over the obstacles. The game comes with a global leaderboard and customizable avatar of Tyga.

Britney Spears

Unlike Gordon’s Dash or KK’s Hollywood, this game from Glu has seen moderate success. It has been successful to gravitate Britney fans to the game and has been able to touch the million mark. Ratings are also good in this game as most of the users rated it with 5 stars.

Gameplay is similar to the one made on Katy Perry in which you can play a singing challenge and rise to the top in charts. This game also allows you to create your own song and album art. Also, the custom avatar, similar to previous Glu titles, is implemented here as well.

Game of War: Fire age

While this game doesn’t include Kate Upton inside the game play it has become associated with the celeb-model through it’s TV advertisement. Game of war is a strategy game that allows users to build their empires and lead massive armies to battles of epic proportions. Players can choose their roles and can play the game as a soldier, a builder or a leader.

The game is built on a multiplayer format where you can interact with other gamers as you go forward and score points. You can also give special titles to your buddies using your power. As far as graphics are concerned, this is really a cool one.

Leo’s Red carpet Rampage

This is a clever one. Red Carpet Rampage came out when Leonardo was nominated for the Oscars last year. Everybody wanted Leonardo to win and the game was built around that trending chatter. Not the best execution, but the game still managed to touch the 500k install mark on Google Play. The gameplay is simple with a 2D infinite map of a red carpet where stars run to grab the oscar trophy.  

So here’s my favorite list of 10 best celebrity games for mobile. If you have your favorite missing from the list, mention it in the comment section below. Have a good day!

OpenXcell Technolabs is a leading app development and app marketing company. Working with industry leaders, we have developed and deployed hundreds of apps primarily for startups.

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Game Reviews

SpartaniaLogo150Available on Google PlayAvailable on iTunesSpartania: The Spartan War is the Angry Birds version of Clash of Clans, meaning cartoon-ish characters in a free strategy mobile game that aims to appeal not only to die hard fans of strategy games but to casual gamers as well.

Gameplay

The storyline takes place in a made-up Spartan city, Spartania, where an army of Spartans re-group on account of war and their burning need for glory. The Spartan soldiers, led by their commander (the gamer) engage in war with various enemies in order to become the strongest army that ever was. The gamer must plan a defense strategy for the home base as well as an offense strategy in an offense camp. Basically, playing this game allows you to swap between camp types, build and upgrade many cool defense buildings, train different kinds of troops and battle your way up the game’s world leaders chart.

The game encourages you to play and battle against other players, attack their base camps and take all their available loot. The real challenge is – you only get 45 seconds for every battle, so it’s best to stay alert. Spartania also features cool perks like usingphoto_2016-01-19_14-25-23 your Facebook friend’s commander for help in battle, playing against gamers worldwide and occasional bonuses in the shape of green Ambrosia bottles (according to the game, warriors often leave them behind after late night parties…). Spartonix, the game’s creators, implanted many hidden jokes along the way which, combined with the amiable animation style, are sure to raise an occasional smile.

One must carefully plan a strategy in Spartania – you are often faced with the dilemma of either strengthening your offense, winning battles and gaining resources or strengthening your defense, ensuring no one steals your resources from you and upgrading your mines and food collectors (Spartans’ training requires a whole lot of food). Add the fact that the game will occasionally send barbarians after your homebase and you’re in for some hard-core battles and strategy. A small game tip for you – notice the order you send your soldiers into battle. I can say that sending my archers and mages in first proved quite rewarding…

Visuals and audio

Spartania managed to create a unique style when it comes to the popular strategy games currently out there. The characters in Spartania have no arms or legs but floating hands, hooves and feet, Rayman style. Seasons often change in Spartania, so perfectly bright skies in the morning could result in heavy snow in the evening and there is constant movement on screen (clouds and leaves passing by, soldiers marching in the background…). The game’s characters try to look tough but actually end up looking kinda cute with their greek-chic outfits and funny war cries.

Spartania is a lot to take in at first, with buttons and information on all four corners of the screen, which makes the tutorial quite useful (and surprisingly entertaining). The game takes time to advance in – training soldiers and upgrading buildings will take time but can also happen immediately if you spend your Ambrosia bottles. These are occasionally granted free by the game but if you wish to advance faster you’ll have to purchase them in the game’s in-app store.image_2015-12-14_15-49-58

Try it out

To sum it up, Spartania is definitely fun to play and rather easy to figure out. It might be a strategy game but it’s clear to see the game’s designers wanted to make sure it appeals to anyone, and I believe it does. It’s the kind of strategy game that both an Angry Birds fan and a Clash of Clans fan would enjoy. The player can choose between a male or a female commander, the animation is relatable and the game does require the right amount of strategy planning without making it too complicated or dreary. So yeah, I say it’s well worth you checking it out, I know I enjoyed it!

 

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Game Design, Game Reviews

icon Frog Smash is a memory trainer game created by Cartha Studios for the Android platform.

Available on Google PlayIt’s nothing spectacular – but it’s a good game. It is well envisioned and executed properly, with enough gametime to keep you hooked for a while. If memory training games are your thing, Frog Smash is worth downloading.

Gameplay

frog smash ss1Once you start the game, it shows you a pond with a couple of cutely drawn frogs, each one having a number assigned to it. Those numbers disappear after a few seconds, and you are tasked with tapping on the frogs in the order of the numbers – from the lowest to the highest.

Sometimes, the numbers will be simple (for example, from 1 to 5), sometimes they’ll be more complex (starting from 79, or hiding the lowest-numbered frog somewhere in the corner of the screen).

However, you don’t have all day to try and remember the order in which the frogs appeared – the timer is ticking. Each properly tapped frog will increase the timer for a few seconds. Tap on the wrong one, and you’re penalized, losing a few seconds.

The game ends once you’ve run out of time. This is a solid concept, as theoretically – you can have the game running endlessly. In practice, that’s not the case, as the developers have said the game features a total of 350 levels.

Yours truly has managed to reach level 37, and that’s probably as high as his memory and focus goes.

In-game shop

frog smash ss2Completing levels and moving through the game earns the player more than just a few seconds – it also earns gold coins which can be spent in the in-game shop. This virtual currency can be spent to remove all ads from the game, as well as to buy a couple of helpful power-ups.

The game features two helping extras: the hinting system (showing you the order of the tapping, to some extent) and the swap, which wipes all the frogs from the screen and replaces them with new ones.

Although I like the system, none of the power-ups have any description in the shop – I had to earn 1,000 coins and spend them just to discover what a power-up did. You can also buy the coins with real money to save yourself the trouble.

Visuals and audio

Visually, the game looks good, but it isn’t spectacular. The pond is slightly animated, as well as the eyes of the frogs floating across the pond’s surface. The HUD is also solid, featuring three basic elements on the right side of the screen – the timer showing how much you have left, and the two buttons for the two power-ups.

The buttons also show how many of each power-up you can use. Level reached and coin earned is shown at the top of the screen.

The music is mediocre at best – but it’s not annoying and won’t mess with your concentration as you try to focus on the numbers. I guess that’s the most important thing with memory games, and this one has done a good job in that respect. The background audio is of a well-known, evergreen pop song, but I couldn’t remember the name. It was enriched by the sound of frogs croaking and chirping – all in key.

Drawing the line

If I am to sum the game up in one word, that would be ‘decent’. The game performs solidly in every aspect, although it does not excel in any, either.  If you like memory games and puzzles for the brain, you’d want to give this one a go, as it will probably keep you interested for a while. The in-game shop with a few power-ups can help you along the way, and if you’re the competitive type, the 350 available levels will give you plenty to think about.

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Game Design, Game Reviews

iconIf, for some strange cosmic reason, you could only ever install one Flappy Bird spin-off and you were in a dilemma which game to choose – you should definitely go for Firebeast’s Tiny Chick.

Available on Google PlayAvailable on iTunesThis game is the perfect example how spin-offs can actually be really entertaining when done right – and looking at Tiny Chick, getting that ‘right’ requires the biggest effort of all – an idea.

Tiny Chick is a 2D arcade endless runner game in which a tiny chick is tasked with jumping over a bunch of obstacles, very similar to those pipes in Flappy Bird.

Jump to win

screenshot1The main difference is that the chick is not actually moving. It’s just standing there, rooted to the ground, waiting for you to react. In order to have the tiny bird jump over the obstacle, you need to press the screen and hold it pressed until its jumping power is charged.

As it charges, a trajectory is pointed out in a form of a dotted line. The longer you press, the higher the jump. The tricky part here is that you can’t modify your trajectory, and you can’t set it up slowly.

It goes from 0 to 60 in a split second, meaning you have less than an eyeblink of time to figure out how long you need to have the screen pressed in order for the chick to jump through the obstacle. Miss by a millisecond and it will smack its pretty little head right across the wooden wall in a hilarious manner, followed by equally entertaining audio.

Modern pixel art

In essence, the game is strikingly similar to Flappy Bird. But just this – this little twist in gameplay, the original idea, should be enough to see the game succeed on the global stage.

But the game has much more to offer.

Its visuals feature straight lines and bright colors, in a ‘modern pixel-art’ fashion – something we’ve seen in Crossy Road, for example. People obviously like pixel art, so why not give it to them, right? Only in these modern iterations, that art is much, much better, and that’s coming from someone who spent half of his lifetime playing pixel-art games.

The game also expands on its tiny universe by adding 14 additional characters, which can be purchased with coins – the in-game currency. That way, if the little yellow chick is not really your thing, you can buy yourself an afro chick, a spiderman chick, deadpool chick, and a bunch of other chicks from various pop-culture instances I couldn’t really recognize. Shame on me.

Coins can be obtained by playing the game and watching a rewarded-video ad, but that’s not what surprised me the most.

screenshot_2The game offers a nifty little feature that’s rarely seen in endless runner games, but in reality should be featured a lot more – a chance to continue where you failed without having to start all over again.

The game offers such a scenario in case the player wants to watch a video ad and, after almost breaking my previous record before failing, I was more than happy to watch a 30-second ad for Google on India. Not sure why such an ad would reach me, but I still enjoyed it, as it helped me break the record.

The option to continue a run is only offered once per game and, if I understood correctly, only shows up if you had already achieved a significant result. Well thought!

In conclusion, I must say I really like this game. It looks nice, feels nice, plays nice and is fairly addictive. Some Play Store comments say the game freezes and crashes every now and then, but that is yet to happen to me. Highly recommended.

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Game Design, Game Reviews

iconWheels on Farm is probably the best game I have ever reviewed on this blog. If not the best, then – definitely – the most complete one that ticks all the right checkboxes.

Available on Google PlayThe game, created by GeekToGeek game development studio (not to be confused with the shady geektogeek.com dating site) is a combination of those dirt bike games with real life physics and puzzle games, set in a FarmVille-like ambient.

It features tons of levels rich with fresh ideas and innovation, and is topped off by quality visuals which breathe a sense of humor in the game.

[UPDATE 24/1/2017]: The game is now available on iOS: https://appsto.re/us/ZB7Icb.i and Tizen: http://www.downloadtizenapps.com/2016/10/wheels-on-farm-help-busy-joe-on-his-farm.html

Goals

In the game, the player takes control of a slightly crazy farmer (I can tell by the tongue hanging out and his eyes being crossed), which sits down in his 4×4 jeep even before the sun rises up. He has to do all the usual stuff an average farmer does, like pick up watermelons, lumber, or just race across his farm because, you know – he can.

Screenshot_2015-12-15-09-45-46Even though they might sound like mundane tasks to a farmer – they are by no means easy. Picking up and driving farm stuff from point A to point B will be a difficult and puzzling task, one which will have you testing out different ideas before figuring out how to best finish the level.

The game is additionally spiced up by a couple of owls hanging around – one will help you, while the other will just start breaking your car, which was quite a nasty shock when I first saw her take part of my trailer away.

But what I liked best about the game is the richness it has in innovation – it has dozens of levels, yet it still manages to surprise you with new ideas as you progress. Things like racing against the computer, computer co-op or fruit and wood delivery, which are available in advanced levels, really make you feel like you’re making progress.

Multiplayer madness

I was very pleased to see that the game features a multi-player mode as well, with two cars and two drivers. The second farmer is an old lady, I’m guessing our main protagonist’s mother, who is slightly off in her own way, but nevertheless is a good farmer.

In the multiplayer mode, you will have to work with your friends to load the contents in a truck (which can sometimes be extremely difficult), and sometimes you will have to push one another uphill to reach your destination.

Visuals and audio

Screenshot_2015-12-15-10-20-48This is, by all standards, a really, really nice looking game. With bright colors and many details, it is a joy to watch, and the animations which follow simple laws of physics are crafted with filigree precision. The changes in the background have been incorporated into the backstory. The player starts sometime before dawn and has to drive during the night. Slowly, as he moves further through the game, the sun will gradually start appearing, changing the landscape. This is such a simple, yet ingenious solution to shake things up in the game and not have the same boring background on every level.

A good job was also done with the audio. Although a bit stereotypical, the game is followed by a banjo-rocking, mouth-organ grooving sound which fit perfectly with the game.

Try it!

I cannot recommend this game enough. It has everything you need for a great mobile experience – it’s well crafted, features beautiful and hilarious animations. It is rich in content with dozens of levels, and has simple commands. The puzzles are fun, engaging and innovative, and the multiplayer mode is something you definitely ought to try out. Wheels on Farm is simply a great game.

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Game Design, Game Reviews

roll_iconFrom time to time, playing Banny Sammy – Physics Puzzle has had me saying “how the hell am I supposed to do that?” Considering that this is a puzzle game, that is actually quite a good thing.

Available on Google PlayAvailable on iTunesBanny Sammy is a puzzle mobile game built by Vietnamese indie game development studio Senspark. In it, two heads – one of a bear and one of a monkey – need to eat their food. Your task is to navigate those heads to their corresponding food, and you do that by employing the game’s physics and snapping various obstacles to get the heads rolling.

Visuals

Eat SS 1The game looks quite good, actually. With bright colors and solid animations, the game will be a joy to watch, and with the game’s moving parts not being too small it will also be a joy to play, even on smaller displays. I have tested it on a 5.5-inch LG G3 Android smartphone, but the game’s developers say the game looks somewhat different on various devices.

“Different graphics set to fit all of your devices. Enjoy the crisp characters on your phones and tablets,” the game’s description page says. This can sometimes be crucial, as I have played games before that have forced me to stop simply because certain elements were too small for me to tap on.

Banny Sammy is accompanied by a simple, cheerful tune. Although I’m not a big fan of tunes that remind me of Google commercials, it sat quite nicely in this game. Too invasive tunes can be a nuisance, especially in puzzle games, which is why it was important to get this aspect right.

Gameplay

Yet in puzzle games, visuals are nowhere near as important as gameplay, and Banny Sammy – Physics Puzzle passes this test with flying colors. The game has a total of 144 levels, split into four stages, offering tons of gameplay. As the game progresses, it adds new mechanics and puzzles to the game, keeping the player interested for a longer period of time. A different stage also means different looks (to a certain degree), which also adds an extra layer of complexity to the game.

Moreover, the game features a couple of power-ups, which is a great add-on and opens up new possibilities to solve the puzzles. With a total of four power-ups (bubble, tornado, bird and hammer), it gives the player more depth.

These power-ups can be obtained either through the game, in various ways, or they can be purchased for real cash. It is a good solution for those who are impatient. Those who wish to tease their brain a bit longer can do so, as I managed to pass quite a lot of this game without using a single power-up.

EAT SS 2However, don’t think you will pass the game in one go – the number of lives you have to spend is limited and regenerates over time, or through your social networks. If you are out of lives, you can send your friends a notification on social media, and you will be rewarded with extra game time.

I’m not a big fan of this approach, as various FarmVille’s and ClashOfClan’s have managed to annoy so many people on Facebook with the constant notifications that it might actually be counter-productive to have such a feature in 2015, soon to be 2016.

Tasty puzzle

All things considered, Banny Sammy is a good-looking, fun mobile puzzle game. With tons of levels and mind-boggling puzzles, it will keep its players interested for days, months even. Different stages and various power-ups add an additional depth to gameplay, and with cute characters and bright colors, it’s bound to attract both the older and the younger audience.

 

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Game Design, Game Reviews

jumpy_iconAfter playing Jumpy for some time, I have realized two things about myself – one, that I’m an incredibly stupid person and two – that I’m capable of laughing out loud at my own stupidity, even though I’m all alone in the office, with no one around but my smartphone.

Available on Google PlayAvailable on iTunesThat is pretty much what this game will do to you. Either that, or you’ll throw it out the window, like people used to do with Flappy Bird, because these two games have a lot in common.

They don’t share the same game mechanics per se – there are no out-of-shape birds or Super Mario-styled pipes in this game. There is only a bouncy ball and a whole lotta stairs to be climbed.

More than an endless runner

jumpy ss 1What they do share is the same gameplay approach – you need to have basically perfect reflexes and steel nerves to pass the game. Failure is, in almost every instance – not an option.

Where Jumpy takes it a step further is that this is not just an endless runner game – it has two types of games and one can actually be completed.

So what is this game all about? In Jumpy, you assume the role of a presumably rubber ball, jumping its way up a lot of stairs. The ball jumps on its own, but when a certain obstacle appears (like spikes, for example), you are required to tap the screen and jump over it.

While it sounds simple enough in theory, in practice you will come to realize that not only do you have bad reflexes, but you also get annoyed by your own stupid self quite fast.

The game features two modes, one being in levels, and the other one, which is coming soon – an endless running game.

Entertaining and engaging

The type of game you can play is thoroughly entertaining – out of the ten levels available I have managed to finish only four, and every level has had new and interesting obstacles to keep me fully focused. Those obstacles vary from popping spikes, to disappearing stairs, to balls jumping twice as high, etc.

In terms of visuals and music, it is clear that this is a game where gameplay is in focus and not the looks, but it still looks good enough to compete with the best of the action/puzzle games out there. I also found the audio background quite entertaining and a good fit.

jumpy ss 2Unfortunately, the game does not feature a shop, meaning there is no place or way for me to purchase various power-ups like the 2x jump one I got in one of the levels, which is really a shame. Hopefully, future versions of the game will bring a shop and with it more depth to the already highly addictive game.

The game earns its keep by serving ads to players once a level is complete. The ads are not too annoying (one in every three or four attempts) and they are usually well-chosen (I was getting mostly game ads).

Worth your time

Looking at the game as a whole I can easily say it’s a good product. It is stripped of all the unnecessary things and the player is left with just what’s important – playing the game. It looks and sounds decent, the controls are simple enough to be good for a hand-held device.

The levels are hard, and with very little space for error, it will hook you and won’t let go until your battery is completely drained.

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Game Design, Game Reviews

frizkey_iconWhen a cyborg monkey stumbles upon an inhabited foreign planet, there is only one thing he should do, and that is surf his way across the surface of the planet for as long as he possibly can.

Available on Google PlayThat’s the premise of Frizkey, a mobile game built by indie game development studio Finologic for Android.

This endless runner surfer game features almost stop-motion visual technique, solid graphics, cool audio and a couple of game elements that turn it into a product with great potential.

Interactive comic book

The first thing you’ll see when you start the game is the introductory cinematic, or in this particular case, more like a comic book-ish slide show, introducing you to the basics of the story. I expected it to also explain the basics of gameplay, but instead the mechanisms are explained as you progress.

frizkey ss 1

The game feels like a moving comic book

Once the introductory story line is complete, you’re thrown into the game, where you will see yellow skies, red mountains and trees, and a number of (living) obstacles that you must avoid in order to achieve a high score.

As with any endless runner game, the goal is to survive as long as possible, while the game throws various obstacles your way. In this game, considering that you’re on a distant planet, the obstacles come in the form of different animals a person could stumble upon.

Not all obstacles are game-breaking, though. Some will end the game for you, some will make things more difficult by slowing you down, and some will even buff you up. All the usual stuff.

The gameplay is followed by well-fitted audio. A loop track in the style of surf rock (think The Beach Boys or Royale Monarchs) follows the cyborg monkey along his way, and it really does add to the overall ambience in a proper way.

Monetizing

The game monetizes through an in-game currency which can be acquired by both playing and paying. It offers the player cosmetic changes, as well as temporary buffs to keep him/her interested in the game. Players can choose to buy the monkey different surfboards for cooler looks, or buffs such as shields to protect them from obstacles, or magnets to acquire gold coins faster. Those coins can then be re-invested into buffs and upgrades.

frizkey ss 2

The game needs more smoothness

As with any endless runner game, there’s not much to say about the gameplay, as it’s pretty straightforward. However, when it comes to improvement, visuals offer a lot of room. The game is built in a technique very similar to stop-motion, which can be cool to watch, but not as cool to interact with, as it lacks smoothness which is particularly necessary when playing a game that relies on reflexes.

Frizkey requires more smoothness in its transitions, otherwise I fear the low framerate could push people away from the game. Other than that, it is a fairly solid product, especially for an indie studio. It has a good premise, nice drawings, a likeable protagonist and a foreign planet, which leaves a lot of room for the developer’s imagination to run wild.

In future versions I can see different planets, different backgrounds, various animals and obstacles, and tons of power-ups that play with a certain planet’s gravity, speed and coins.

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Game Design, Game Reviews

haber_icon‘I love it when a plan comes together’. Those must have been the words of boys and girls in the Luna Wolf Studios after they had completed Haberdashery.

Available on Google PlayAvailable on iTunesAnd what was their plan, you might ask? To make a hilarious and addicting game I guess, as that’s what they ended up with, anyway. And what better way to start building a hilarious game than to make a sheep your main protagonist?

Haberdashery is a free running 360-degree game in which a sheep is being chased by a dragon. The dragon, however, can never catch you, unless you hit an obstacle along the way.

What a pleasant surprise

freedomss

The game does not lack humour

The first pleasant surprise was the environment – the sheep is running across something that resembles the planet from The Little Prince – a tiny speck of land filled with trees, stones, and other similar obstacles. I loved the way new obstacles appeared on the horizon, very clever.

The second pleasant surprise were the hats you collect along the way, and the way they change your game completely. Some hats will give you certain powers (like ramming through trees), while others will completely change the planet you’re running across. With a total of 30 hats in the game, that makes for a rich and engaging gaming experience.

The LOL is strong with this one

denis sazhin

Something along these lines, anyway Credit: denis sazhin

The third pleasant surprise was the amount of quality humour in the game. Each hat is hilariously crafted, brings fun changes to the game and is, without exception, followed up by a great comment. So for example, picking up the Emo hat will: 1) place some hair at the top of your screen, partially blocking your view; 2) add a black layer across the world; 3) add a “nowBaahdy understands me” message, which I found quite amusing and 4) the music changed to something that reminded me of Alice in Chains. If that was the developers’ intention then these guys win at life.

The fourth pleasant surprise came in a fact that not all of these hats were available right off the bat. You start with a total of four, and need to collect coins to invest and unlock new content. That’s a great way to keep players motivated and engaged in the game. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the Hellraiser hat! I also liked the fact that you could buy coins for real cash through the store, in case you aren’t the patient type. The game is free to play, after all.

Gamble away

The fifth pleasant surprise was the addition of the slot machine mini-game. The slot-machine lets you win extra hats, however the feature was locked for me, with no explanation as to how I can unlock it. It took me a few minutes to find that you actually need 100 gold to play the mini-game.

The sixth pleasant surprise was the music. Audio is extremely important as it sets the tone (no pun intended) for the entire game, and missing the point with music can ruin the complete game experience. Haberdashery is spot on with the high-tempo, cheerful banjo song. Of course, the music will also change with certain hats, just adding to the list of reasons why you should try to collect all of them.

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I really need the Hellraiser hat

What I disliked about the game (yes, that happened, too) was the placement of the message that pops up when you pick up a hat. It basically covers the entire upper side of your screen, exactly the place where you look for incoming obstacles. That means that sometimes you’ll lose the game as you failed to see an obstacle because there was this huge “TO WALHALLAAAAA” message across the screen. Fitting!

After spending a couple of hours with the game, I can understand why it has a 4.8 overall on Google Play Store and why the reviews there usually end with an exclamation mark. I see a bright future ahead of the hat-wearing, banjo-playing humorous sheep.

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Game Design, Game Reviews

number_escape_iconGame developers everywhere, take notice – this is how you make a mobile puzzle game.

Available on iTunesAvailable on Google PlayNumber Escape was built by SangMoon Joo for both Android and iOS and it basically ticks all the right boxes needed to make a great game.

Here are the elements I believe are key to creating a solid, well-rounded game, which are present in Number Escape: original mechanics, simplicity in both graphics and gameplay, new elements to keep the player interested longer, and game size. This one has it all, but first let’s see what the game is all about.

Mind Trainer

number escape ss 1

Original mechanics are key to success

Number Escape presents the player with either a 4×3, 5×4, 6×5 or 7×6 board, with each tile holding a number. You win the game by moving a rotating red square across all the boards and to the goal. However, moving about is not that simple – the number on each tile represents the number of times the rotating red square can pass over it. That means you need to think a few moves in advance and try the game out a few times before being able to complete the level. Now that we’re acquainted with the game’s basics, let’s look at the individual elements which make the game great:

Original mechanics

Nowadays, it’s hard to come across a completely unique gameplay mechanic. Mobile games are usually made by taking an already known mechanic (color matching, tile matching, pixel hunting, etc) and adding an unusual twist to it. Sometimes, when the developers are lazy, you just get a clone of something you’ve already played. Number Escape offers a completely new and unique puzzle experience, which is among the most important elements a game can have.

New elements introduction to keep the player interested

I’ve spoken about this on multiple occasions before – throwing everything you have at the player from stage one can do more harm than good. Not only will you intimidate the player by forcing him to adapt to numerous elements right off the bat, but you’re also leaving nothing for later. That means the player will get bored of the game much faster than you’d want, so keep your aces in your pocket and pull them out every once in a while. This game does it quite well, by offering higher numbers as the player progresses. At the start, you’ll have small boards with tiles offering one, two moves max. Later on, you’ll start seeing tiles with no moves allowed, as well as those where you need to move three or more times. It adds depth and keeps the player occupied longer.

Simplicity in both graphics and gameplay

number escape ss 2

Simplicity works wonders in puzzle games

The screenshot on the right represents the game’s home screen – the first thing you see when you run the app. Pick a tile and head straight into the game. This is a very important aspect as mobile games are usually built to be consumed on the go – while commuting, waiting in line, etc. Most of the time players only have one hand at their disposal. Obviously, there are many examples of comprehensive, deep mobile games that require a player’s full attention and both hands, but still – fast games with short levels and simple, original mechanics are a much safer and more quality way towards success.

Game size

This is especially important when creating a puzzle game. The replay value of such games is usually quite low, so if you want to keep your players in the game for as long as possible, you need to create enough content for them to stick around. Number Escape offers a total of 300 levels, which means you have a ton of gameplay hours ahead of you.

Room for improvement

Even though Number Escape is a great example of how to make a quality puzzle game, it still has room for improvement. There are a couple of things obviously missing that could, if implemented, add an extra challenge to the game, increase player retention and also improve the game’s monetisation.

Here are a couple of things that come to mind:

Levels can be locked

It strikes me as odd that all levels, no matter the difficulty, can be played from day one. Puzzle games usually lock higher levels and new elements, allowing players access only when they have achieved certain success in the game. This creates a sense of achievement and progress, which works wonders for player retention. Gamers that can easily visualise their progress will come back to play more.

Additional challenges like time-limiting levels

number escape ss 3

Levels could be locked to get a better sense of progress

This opens up the game to a completely different dimension. Puzzle games and time-based challenges easily go hand in hand, and with a game like this one, it can work quite nicely. What’s even better, having additional challenges also means you could create an in-game shop, where those challenges can be bought, traded and improved.

In-game shop could offer undo moves, extra time for time-based challenges

Which brings me to my third idea, the in-game shop. Looking at the game the way it is now, there is basically no room for an in-game shop. However, start locking levels to create a better sense of progress, and add a couple of additional challenges, and you have plenty of room. The game could offer undo moves (which are currently lacking), or extra time for time-based challenges. All of this could be, for example, fueled with rewarded ads which, in the end, also means better monetisation for the game.

All in all, this game is an extremely good example of how to make an amazing puzzle game for mobile devices. It’s not perfect, but it is dangerously close.

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