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    Royal Match (iPd)    by   jp       (Mar 3rd, 2024 at 20:44:35)

    I've seen a LOT of ads for this game.

    You probably have as well - most of the (recent? current?) ones show a king in trouble and you have to solve a match-3 puzzle to rescue/save him. There's lots of different scenarios and they involve things like making matches along the way such that water flows in order to put out a fire.

    To my surprise, the king-saving levels DO appear in the main game, but pretty rarely - every 25 or so regular levels you get a bonus one - which is a king level (I think they're called "King's Nightmare levels"). My guess is that they were added as a response to the advertising and the trouble that Playrix was getting into for having ads featuring gameplay that is not in the game. It'll be interesting to see how that whole part of of the industry evolves over the next few years - my guess, from messages I've seen on twitter (added by twitter) that flag those ads as not representative of gameplay, that we're seeing a bit of a tide change in that.

    Anyways.

    The main game is a straight up match-3, the longer you play (I made it to level 195 or so) the more variations you se in terms of things that get in the way of clearing a level, and it is super, super slick and fun and engaging. The powerups are pretty neat and the more you play the more you learn how to best use them to clear levels. And there are clans and events and everything is geared towards getting you to play for longer and longer. And, I did. It was super easy to get sucked in a to play an hour when you were just thinking of a quick match.

    It is really good at this. A lot of it is because of the events - here's an event where you need to clear more levels faster than anyone else, here's another where you need to do a lot of level clears within 24hrs, and so on. There are so many of them and, I got to see a few weeks worth, they're varied and fun.

    I've decided to go "cold turkey" after writing this mostly because I see how compelling and easy it is to get stuck in the game. Also, because there's a reward I think is a borderline dark pattern I find annoying. As you participate in events and so on you often win a reward that give you unlimited boosters of a kind (one free booster as you start a level) for a certain amount of time. Say, 30 minutes. The annoying part is that as soon as you win it, it unlocks and is activated. So, if you win it as you were planning on winding down and stopping play, too bad, you've wasted 30 minutes of that booster. I would much rather you get it and could choose when to activate it (like, when you're planning on playing for the next 30 minutes). I understand why it was implemented the way it is - it incentivizes continued play - and I think that's a bit manipulative, thus borderline dark pattern. I'd have to think about it a bit more to see if it really is dark - but I can say that I didn't like it, so I'm "voting" with my feet and uninstalling the game.

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    CD 2 Trap Master (PC)    by   jp       (Feb 25th, 2024 at 21:16:43)

    I've played a little over 5 hours now and I've been having fun with this tower defense deckbuilder. Your cards are basically the traps you lay on the maze to damage the creeps. Hopefully they'll die before they get to your home base.

    The game's overall structure is essentially the same as Slay the Spire (the winding paths with forks and choices, there are fights, events, stores, campfires, and so on). There are more types of places than Slay the Spire, but it's basically the same structure.

    In this game you have more chances to improve your cards. One is by upgrading, and the other is by adding (forging) a modifier - e.g. the card now also does freeze damage - to a card. Some are better than others and I sometimes skip them. You can delete cards, but for the most part I haven't used that all that much.

    As in Slay, three bosses and that's the end of the run. I've only done it once (out of 5-6 runs?) with a couple of deaths at the 3rd boss which was annoying. Whether or not I have a good "battle" is largely due to the map layout, with some maps having layouts that change...which makes those maps super hard unless you know exactly how things will go. This is because you want to lay traps such that all the enemies get hit, rather than having to worry about two paths.

    As I write this I realize it's similar to Ratropolis (in the tower defense part), but different in that Ratropolis really works on the economy and citybuilding. Here, your redraw is on a timer and your mana as well...so I'm always waiting for it to creep up to the next amount so I can either redraw (to hopefully get cards I want/need/can use) or so I can play a card I'm sitting on.

    There are also skills and powers (in addition to the traps) with powers being a permanent buff while skills you can play over and overs (unless they have "exhaust")

    I've had fun making decks where I can optimize for speed (how fast traps trigger, everything is on a cooldown) with my traps sometimes firing almost continuously. I think each speed is like a percentage reduction on the cooldown, so there are diminishing returns, but on speed 18 things seem pretty fast to me!

    The game is apparently still in "beta" (current patch is 0.8.22) and there are some things that need fixing...there's a fireball spell that is kind of bugged - the fireball sort of bounces in place, trapping the enemies beneath it (which helps a lot in slowing things down). Sometimes it eventually explodes, other times it does not... Also, the game's art (in those random events) is super cool and dark (sort of Mignola style) BUT the 3D assets for the creeps are all humorous and goofy-looking (the oppositve of the dark and creepy illustrations). Given the title's name (which I don't understand what CD means, it's used in-game where I think it means cool down), I wonder if they're assets used from the 1st game? (and they're going for a change of tone but haven't updated the game's look?

    Anyways, fun deckbuilding for sure!

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    Ratropolis (PC)    by   jp       (Feb 19th, 2024 at 10:44:17)

    I'm 12 hours in, have played 11 or games games, and I'm ready to hang my hat. Not bad!

    I'm playing this one as part of the critical game design seminar (deckbuilding games!) And...this game is pretty interesting!

    First, it's made by a small team in Korea. AND, I think it was originally a group of students? This might have even been a student game originally?

    As a game, it's pretty interesting for:

    a. It's a mashup of tower defense with deckbuilding. You run Ratropolis and get attacked by enemies in waves from either the left or the right (or both). To defend yourself you need to buy cards and play them. BUT, you need money to pay for cards! Building cards get placed in your city (and disappear from the deck), while other cards either result in troops or "jobs" (tasks on a timer that result in some benefit) and there are some other direct action cards. Anyways, your troop count is limited by your ratizen limit, and you get money from tax (or killing enemies) and there's lots of randomness - ala Slay the Spire. BUT...

    b. Your ability to redraw your hand is on a timer! But you can pay ever-increasing amounts of gold to redraw sooner. I though this was pretty interesting for deckbuilding, since the game does want you to cycle through your cards quickly, but you're also often running up against the citizen limit...and gold accrues rather slowly as well.

    c. Buying cards seems pretty frequent and common. Perhaps I'm not playing most effectively? There are 30 waves and you "win" at the end of that, BUT you can also continue for 60 waves - and I've been unable to clear those. I did get decently close...but I was in an unrecoverable deathspiral at that point (which new/later waves running into older waves...so it was just me trying to hold off until the end, barely hanging on on one side of my city while things collapsed on the other side).

    d. There are different leaders (at least 6!) which determine what kinds of troop cards you'll see, and they each have different abilities and stuff. So, there's quite a lot to learn here and, if I'm being honest it's all a bit overwhelming!

    e. Also, you can get advisors - which are sort of like artifacts. But you see them walking around your city. Ha!

    The game feels like it collapses a bit under it's own complexity in terms of being able to play it. It becomes tedious to scroll back and forth both ends of the city (a quick tab to the end of each would be nice, perhaps via minimap?) and you often have buildings that "produce" something you need to click on...and again, the longer you play the larger the city and the more annoying it is to scroll around. There is a hotkey (tab) that goes to the last event - these scroll up on the right side of the screen, but it still felt a bit inefficient..

    All this being said, I did have fun playing! And, I think the deckbuilding is interesting enough in the game that I'm glad we played it.

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    Yakuza Kiwami (PS4)    by   jp       (Feb 18th, 2024 at 15:34:06)

    My first Yakuza game!

    I have no idea where this one fits in the general series (other than it not being a "main" numbered entry) and so far, having just finished chapter 5, I can say that it really takes a while before it opens up.

    In my mind this game was GTA but in Japan, and I was quite wrong about this. It's similar in being (sort of?) open world - unless it really opens up later, this feels much more constrained - and there's no driving/vehicles and lots of brawling combat. It's perhaps more fair to say it's an open world brawler? It sort of makes me want to play Shenmue again, because I'm sort of reminded of it, though I might be nostalgic of Shenmue in a strange way? (I think it had some fairly robust fighting, but was it brawling or 1v1 sideview fighting? I don't recall).

    Anyways, so far I'm sort of kind of understanding the story - lots of different names and Yakuza families, and the story seems to cover lots - from protagonist Kiryu being young, spends years in prison, and is now (finally!) out and free...and has a reputation from back then, but now he's weak.

    It's been fun so far, though I'm struggling with the combat - in the sense that I feel I don't understand the timing well and end up getting hurt a lot and having to blow through lots of health items just to make progress (for boss/important fights, random fights are fine). I've also heard there are lots of interesting side things to do, though I haven't run into any of them yet! Perhaps this is where the map should open up later? I chatted with some kids to race RC cars, and I know that's a thing I can do - but I don't know where yet.... things to look forward to though?

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    3 Tiles (iPd)    by   jp       (Feb 18th, 2024 at 15:27:20)

    I started playing this because of the class on mobile game design I'm teaching, and I wanted to have an example of a game for which I would do (some) of the assignments for to serve as a model for the students.

    I wanted a hypercasual game, and this seemed to fit the bill. It's basically a "pick three" mahjong tile game, but you have a "buffer" into which tiles go when you pick them - so you need to look ahead to make some matches by (hopefully for a limited time) having unmatchable tiles in your buffer. If your buffer fills up, it's game over.

    The game is partly ad-based (I was getting lots of external ads until I paid $5 or $6) but also booster-based - boosters let you "try again", extend your buffer, and so on. You can also (sometimes!) watch an ad to get the booster for free.

    I thought it was interesting that you can't always count on being able to watch an ad to keep on playing...and I wonder why? Possibly they want to push towards buying boosters since they monetize better than watching a single ad? (but they allow ads for those players who will never spend any money).

    The game's basic progression is collecting stars (one per level completed) you then spend on getting items for a scene, and there are many scenes...I'm at level 105 and I'm still on chapter 3 (scene = chapter), and each chapter has different art on the tiles, which is nice and gives variety - but the gameplay is essentially the same.

    I kind of want to keep on playing because it is kind of relaxing, and I do think I'm getting better at the game, but there are lots of internal ads (popups) and stuff that are quite annoying. There's even one - which is like a doughnut - that partly covers the playfield! Another one interrupts gameplay and you have to tap to get rid of it. There's also lots of short-term (no longer than a week?) events - they start of fine but then get super hard. I wonder if some of the levels are impossible without boosters? It does feel like that some times.

    Thankfully, each time you lose and start over you get a new random(?) shuffle of tiles?

    I really am curious if each shuffle has a guaranteed solution without boosters...

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