You got IAP in my platformer
It is starting to feel as if the walls are closing in around me. No matter which game I turn to on iOS, it is only a matter of time until I stumble over the hurdle of In-App-Purchases, and it typically seems to be sooner than the time before. I know this isn’t always the case as there are plenty of games on iOS that don’t constantly panhandle or force their way into your wallet. However; it is increasingly apparent that gamers will have to be much more choosy with the games they entrust their time to.
As I normally mention, I take no issue with games that charge for expanded content. Many games take a “chapter” approach, or later increase the scope of the game and request a fee to access this new portion of the game world. Provided the content is worth my time, I am more than happy to reach into my pocket and give more to the developer. Magic: The Gathering, Battle Academy, and Hero Academy are all fantastic examples of how I feel in-app purchasing should be handled.
Square Planet is a rolling platformer in the vein of Sound Shapes, Kirby Canvas Curse, or Rolando. It is the kind of game that presents players with a world entirely populated by platforms of differing elevation through which the player must navigate to the end point. Your primary interaction with the world is jumping, and a series of well-timed jumps will allow you to bounce your way to victory. The main control mechanism is tilting your device to roll either left or right, and tapping the screen to bounce. Along the way, players collect gold rings and free your imprisoned friends, a mechanic that hearkens back to Rayman.
In general, the mechanics of the game are not executed with the degree of precision one normally expects from a platforming game. The tilt control does not feel appropriate, nor does it function with the accuracy that I would like. I have experienced countless framerate hitches while playing the game on my iPhone 4 (yes, I have re-loaded, restarted the device, and closed all other apps), and these framerate hiccups are detrimental to the game playing experience. I can’t seem to get a perfect handle on the bounce, either. While this may be a product of the tilt controls, I am generally frustrated while trying to execute a sequence of jumps.
Finding characters hidden away in levels is typically a fun mechanic when levels are designed appropriately. Most recently, I was disappointed with the poorly hidden secret exits within Rayman Origins. Square Planet has found a way to disappoint me on an entirely new level. While some caged characters are hidden within the level geometry, many secret paths are placed behind a purchase barrier. Unlocking a secret path (many of which hide characters) requires the player to spend their in-game rings; finding characters is necessary to play further levels. There are also levels that require a double jump powerup- which can only be purchased with rings.
While the game does allow the player to go back to older levels and replay them for rings, it is designed so that you will eventually want to just pay with real-world cash to unlock more rings. If I am playing a platformer correctly, I should be able to proceed to the next level without the need to go back and “grind” out more collectibles. Placing secret areas behind collectible barriers is fine, and many games practice this, but what Square Planet does is atypical to say the least.
If this review seems all too similar to the myriad other reviews I have posted of free to play titles as of late, it is only because the crux of each game is the monetary system, and how the game guides you into it. Square Planet is free, so I cannot begrudge it for wanting me to pay in some form, but there are much better ways to go about it. Instead of allowing the payment model to dig its roots into the gameplay itself, why not remove those elements entirely and ask me to pay for each sequence of levels? Payments around every corner distract from the game design and interfere with the progression of the level.
The payment model implemented by Square Planet interferes with its quality as a game. Without the In-App-Purchases, Square Planet is an unremarkable platformer that draws inspiration from industry giants without bringing anything new to the table. The tilt and tap controls do not function with the precision required by fast-paced platformers. Vibrant graphics are marred (at least on my machine) by constant framerate hitches. Even if I were to not be bothered by the free to play nature, Square Planet wouldn’t review well.
As it stands, Square Planet stumbles over itself. I am saddened to see that the power of the free to play model has caused the value of gameplay so sink so drastically, and especially saddened to see just how many genres it has crept into.
Square Planet is available for free on the app store
While I do agree with Nathan’s stance on in-app purchases in this game, and how they feel forced on the player, I didn’t find it as detrimental to the game’s fun factor as he did. Because of this, you should take its initial FREE price point with a grain of salt. However, there is a solid platformer here. Yes, it does borrow heavily from many platformers before it (It’s almost a carbon copy of Rolando in terms of ideas). Yes, there is some unforgivable framerate issue. And yes, the controls feel a little off, almost sticky. But, I couldn’t help raise a smile at some of the level design, and as I rolled through the finish line in a plume of square fireworks, having collected all my spherical friends.
MaJaka should revise how the game is priced, or balanced, in terms of coins. Maybe going purely ad-supported instead (they already include some ads). But, overall, it’s not a bad game.