Friday, May 2, 2014

Feature Friday #8 - Robots Love Ice Cream

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. ~~~ Innovation is a tricky thing. People crave new, but when given the choice to try something truly unique or stick to what’s been successful, so many developers choose the latter. Dragon Army made a really funky, arcade-style action-defense-shooter thing, where maybe the weirdest thing about it is the name: Robots Love Ice Cream. Yes, the title is equal parts insane and original, the gameplay is genuinely fun, even if not groundbreaking, and... that’s about it. The game takes one step towards awesome, and one back to plain vanilla. Don’t get me wrong, I like vanilla. It’s safe, generally appealing, and will almost always get the job done. While this game started to whet my appetite, it definitely could’ve used another helping of boldness to finish the job.
That’s a lot of ice cream…
I’ll start with the bad, or better put, the bland. Despite gameplay that’s actually kind of different, the levels and objective layout in Robots Love Ice Cream just feel like Angry Birds and Jetpack Joyride got smashed together in a very cookie-cutter, formulaic way. Three-star levels feel really old at this point, especially when the criteria for each star isn’t obviously apparent. While plenty of games use rotating objectives to keep things fresh (a great addition for a lot of endless-style games), with defined levels this feature seems forced. These objectives rarely diverge from the genre’s staples: time trials, combos, and perfect runs are common requirements. Each completed goal rewards the player with Sprinkletonium (the game’s currency), but ultimately feel pretty hollow and repetitive. Despite this criticism, some of the challenges are fairly well-tailored to the specifics of each level - times and combo requirements are reflective of the level’s difficulty, and all seem feasible with moderate spending. This is of course excluding the objectives which intentionally require additional upgrades, a feature I kind of like, as Sprinkletonium is gained fairly quickly, and this lengthens the game without energy walls or another equally cliche mechanic. I’m aware that I might sound pretty flip-floppy, and I should, because that’s really how I feel about the game. At times it’s really fun and engaging, even captivating, other times it seems poorly-paced, repetitive, and more than a little tedious. There have been stretches in the game where I’ve been so caught up in the goals that I lose track of the actual point of the game: staying alive and protecting all the ice cream. I think this is a good sign - showcasing the attention-grabbing ability of the challenges - rather than a critique on the overall gameplay, because as the levels progress, just staying alive turns out to be pretty difficult. This isn’t exactly a common problem, but when you lose for the first time in a while it’s surprising (and kind of refreshing). Robots Love Ice Cream does a lot of other things well too. The graphics are great, and all aspects of the sound fit the game (though I would’ve also welcomed real ice cream truck music if not copyright protected).
Futurama meets Space Invaders, all held together by centripetal force

Overall, gameplay hits a really good difficulty, and though the game is clearly in its early stages, if offers a decent amount of playing time (even if a bit repetitive). I think the game could definitely use more things to spend Sprinkletonium on - weapons, upgrades, maybe even a new ice cream truck? - because I think these features could stretch out gameplay and hide some of the monotony of the goals. The most troubling problem I’ve come across, and likely one that will be fixed immediately, is somewhat regular crashing and freezing that occurs. I’ve had this happen more than a few times in the first days I’ve played it, and to be completely honest would’ve likely given up the game had it not been for this feature. That said, when I’ve been able to play, I’ve been mostly satisfied. Robots Love Ice Cream is clearly a bit rough, but there’s definitely a lot to work with. If later updates improve the level/scoring/star system this could be a really special game that captures the eccentricity of its title. ~~~ As of this writing, Robots Love Ice Cream is free on both Android and iOS. The game apparently retails for $2.99 normally (at least on iOS), so check it out pro bono while you can! There’s already a bunch there, and the game’s both Kickstarter-backed and featured by Apple recently so I’d expect updates and improvements going forward. Sidenote: I found this list interesting for improving creativity; check it out and use these tips to do something new :) Josh Dombro Community Manager

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