This year’s Gamescom had more than its fair share of mobile and casual games. With nearly all major publishers investing heavily in this growing platform, we decided to take a look at some of the titles that could be gracing an iPad or Android tablet near you in the next few months. What we found is that the casual gaming marketplace is a breeding ground for original gaming concepts, but has plenty of games that shows that its roots lie in more traditional experiences.
Before Angry Birds, there was Peggle. One of the pioneers of the casual gaming genre, Peggle had a similar gameplay style to Angry Birds in that you ‘aim to win’. In Peggle, you aim a series of balls at a playing field where your goal is to hit (and thus take out) as many colored pegs as you can with each shot. Balls will bounce, hit multiple pegs in a single shot, get supercharged – all with the goal of clearing the field with a limited amount of shots.
At Gamescom, Peggle producer PopCap demonstrated Peggle 2, an upcoming Xbox One (timed?) exclusive. At first sight, despite the original game being over 5 year old, not a lot seems to have changed aside from a fresh layer of paint. The core gameplay is still there and “Ode to Joy” still plays upon completing a level. PopCap has chosen to not change a winning formula, which is a good move because Peggle is about as addictive a game as they come. The changes this time around are more subtle, and can be seen when looking at the different special powers you can use. During this demonstration, activating a special power with Luna meant ‘ghosting’ some of the pegs for the duration of your ghost, allowing you to reach harder to reach spots on the playing field.
It’s a novel take on a familiar concept, and it will be interesting to see what other twists PopCap has in store for us when Peggle 2 comes out as an Xbox One launch title.
Feed Me Oil 2
While Peggle is very much a cross-platform game (with editions for PC and DS owners as well as mobile versions), Feed Me Oil 2 is firmly rooted as a mobile/tablet game. Building on the foundations of games like The Incredible Machine, Chillingo’s original Feed Me Oil game required you to guide a stream of oil to a target area using a select number of building elements. These elements include fans, platforms and much more – all of which you can use in a variety of ways to solve 60 physics-based conundrums.
If you’ve played The Incredible Machine before (that series is over 20 years old now!), Feed Me Oil is a somewhat simplified version of that concept. This fits the mobile platform well, which demands gameplay that is easy to pick up and master. We got to play with Feed Me Oil 2 and the experience was both fun and intuitive, and allows for plenty of ways to creatively solve the puzzles offered. It’s also a colorful and good-looking game, and Chillingo definitely has a winning product when it comes in the very near future.
The odd one out, when it comes to mobile gaming, had to have been John Woo’s Bloodstroke. Looking and feeling a lot a traditional console-based twin stick shooter, this is a hardcore and violent game the likes of which you don’t see very often on mobile devices.
Using famed director John Woo’s vision and a distinct black/white/red art style, Bloodstroke has you controlling a hired gun who is nearly unstoppable (especially with restarts), but who is also in charge of keeping his employer alive as the level progresses through an ‘on rails’ scrolling mechanism. Add a 30 level campaign and plenty of weapons to find and use to the mix and you’ve got a fully-featured console game – shrunk down to tablet size.
This is where Chillingo’s main challenge lies – will the limited control options of tablet computers be able to convey the same experience that a ‘real’ controller would? When we played the game for a few minutes we had fun, but it will remain to be seen how it will hold up over the full length of the campaign.
Find The Line
The game that best illustrated how new gameplay concepts find their way onto mobile devices had to have been Stigol’s Find The Line. Developer Ostap Dovbush walked us through the game’s creative new approach and the concept is actually easier to play than it is to explain. We’ll do our best though 😉
In Find The Line, you are given several lines that you must place on a game board in order to assemble your final image, the shape of which is unknown at the start. This is also true for the lines that you use as building blocks, as you pull them across the screen and watch them change shape and position. One second you could be looking at a cat, and the same line could transform into a flower a second later. The trick is to let go when you feel that the line has reached a shape and position that works well with the other shape-shifting lines in order to complete the end result.
To reach this goal, hints are available that will place the line on the screen in the correct spot, thus helping you coordinate with the other lines that you haven’t used yet. It’s a simple concept and perhaps more a ‘challenging way to relax’ than a traditional ‘game’, but with the option to play user-generated puzzles and atmospheric music this could turn into a application that bridges the gap art and games while entertaining casual gamers for hours on end.