I hate you, iAds.
After playing some very early builds of Escape from NOM, I’d been looking forward to getting my hands on the final version. Unfortunately, it appears the game is more fun at brief at press events than it is in longer sessions.
The goal of the game is to get your colored blob, Alan, from to the top of the screen to the liquid below, all the while avoiding obstacles, bouncing off bumpers, and ensuring that he is the same color as the liquid before he hits the bottom. If the water at the bottom is green, and you are purple when you hit it, you die and you have to try again. Aside from controlling where you drop Alan (the game uses gravity to pull him down), some levels let you place bumpers and other objects to redirect Alan’s falling path. You use these objects to try to collect all the flowers in a level before you hit the bottom.
The animations are cute, the music is cute (Loco Roco style all the way!), Alan is cute, and the “story” comics are cute… but I just didn’t have a ton of fun playing through this game. I think the trouble with NOM comes with the fact that it’s either really really easy, or extremely difficult. This depends directly on how you play the game. If you try to collect all the flowers in every level, you will be pulling your hair out before the second world. If you blast through while ignoring the flowers, you will complete the initial 30 levels in a single sitting without much enthusiasm. When you’re done, the game tells you that you need to unlock the next two worlds. Not until you’ve agreed to get them do you see the $1.99 price confirmation pop up. You can still back out, but this seems uncharacteristically shady for a Glu game.
The game comes with a free level creator and the ability to post and download levels that other people create. This is a cool feature, but each level you download costs a credit, and you only get 5 for free. That’s right, you have to pay for levels that other people make, in addition to the extra levels added by Glu. You can buy 30 credits for $.99, which isn’t a bad asking price, but when you can’t even preview how a level looks, you really have no idea if 2/3 of the levels you buy are going to suck. In-game purchases aren’t terrible, and have been used well with games like Pocket Legends or Eliminate. One thing these two don’t have, in addition to in-game purchases, is ads.
NOM has ads. Lot’s of ‘em.
That’s right, Escape from NOM, in addition to in-game purchases, has iAds on almost every screen, and I accidentally tapped them on more than one occasion. At one point, I started thinking that the longer-than-normal load times between every menu and level was simply a ploy to get me to pay attention to the ads. This was annoying, to say the least. Granted, the ads never got in the way of gameplay, but I would have much rather paid a dollar or two to not have to deal with them. To me, offering ads in a game that features in-game purchases is akin to Hulu’s “Plus” program. You pay for the content, then watch ads anyways. This is the reason I canceled my preorder of Hulu Plus.
To get down to it, Escape NOM is a challenging game that should satisfy hardcore physics puzzle fans. Anyone else will most likely be drawn in by the appealing free price tag, then ultimately disappointed by the constant ads, overuse of in-game purchases, and difficult gameplay. But don’t take my word for it, try it out yourself! Just don’t blame me if you end up with an AT&T internet plan or a new Citi credit card in the process.