Friday, March 28, 2014

Feature Friday #3 - Fishbowl Racer

Every Friday on our blog I’ll feature a game that’s doing something unique, innovative, and truly noteworthy. This isn’t just an app review; it’s an analytical look at a fresh game from the perspective of someone within the game industry. *Note: I played this game on an iOS device, the Android version does feature ads. ~~~ Endless runners are one of those categories that just work on mobile devices. It’s undoubtedly for this reason that the genre has been done to death, and then some. It therefore becomes noteworthy when someone is able to make an endless-whatever game and do something different with it, case in point, Fishbowl Racer by Donut Games. Oddly enough, doing something old, really old, was crucial in making this game something new. This game puts you in charge of a fish’s life, inside a bowl on an apparently runaway cart. Where things get cool is that you’re in control of both the fish jumping out of the bowl and the inexplicably self-jumping cart. This game is hard. Really hard. Think every endless runner you’ve ever played, now try playing another one with your other hand at the same time. So the first cool thing Fishbowl Racer does is actually challenge the user with a unique control system. The difficulty also keeps things fresh; whereas with most endless runners, an advanced player can often keep a single run going for minutes, Fishbowl Racer is so hard that a minute-long run hardly seems possible. The game looks good. Nothing flashy, but a consistent art style all the way through. All things considered, the art and the difficulty are reminiscent of SNES-era gaming. It’s not pixel art or chiptune soundtracks, and not so infuriatingly difficult that you’re able to appreciate one release every few years, but still extremely challenging.
Another nice old-school touch was the complete and total lack of several modern gaming staples: ads*, in-app purchases, and powerups. It’s rare for a game today to leave out any of these components (let alone all three!), but Fishbowl Racer does just that, and it does not go unnoticed. Powerups are especially popular among endless runners - coin magnets, extra lives, higher jumps, et. al. - and would’ve fit into this game perfectly, but the devs took a bold stand against these additions. Including such powerups would’ve likely transformed the game’s points (which function as solely a means of tracking your score) into a soft currency and opened the door for in-app purchases. About 40 percent of developers use in-app ads in their apps (and that number is much higher on Android), so it’s worth noting when a game omits them, but not game-changing one way or the other to most users. There’s also a nice mix of old and new in that they throw in achievements and a daily high score, in addition to an all-time high score. The presence of achievements without any IAP or powerups seems pure - you really have to earn every little trophy you get since there’s no option to buy your way to the top. The decision to reject both IAP and ads is great for the users, but is a tough decision to make from the developer’s standpoint. It seems a studio the size of Donut Games can afford to take a small hit financially with this game if it helps to build their overall userbase, ideally creating more paying users for their other games. Overall, Fishbowl Racer is a satisfying experience from start to finish (as quick as that may be), and serves as a great example of old school style with a modern finish. ~~~ As of this writing, Fishbowl Racer is available for free on both Android and iOS. The team at Donut Games does enough right in this game to justify a little bit of payment (you know, if you’re into that sort of thing), but doesn’t offer any way to accept it. They have created a whole slew of other games, however, most of which cost $1-2 on iOS and are free but feature ads on Android, so feel free to check those out if you love Fishbowl Racer. Josh Dombro Community Manager

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