More reviews, and another peevish whinge about IAP abuse

5 A Day is out now and receiving some nice reviews – it’s quite unusual in style and quite different to Gridrunner, so I’ve been interested to see how it’d be received. I’m happy to see that the answer to that seems to be “pretty well” so far.

“…Then, there is the music—a chilled-out, Tantric, meditative outer-space drone that pulls you deeper into this place built of absurdity, causing you to take it seriously, as if you were approaching a Hindu temple, even though there are cucumbers floating around… when playing Five a Day, I don’t become addicted to a numbers game. I’m not driven by a compulsion to act perfectly and win completely. Rather, I’m in it for my own sake: to see, and hear, and touch something mysterious—not because I’m hooked, but because I want to know what comes next.”

Killscreen review: Bullish Stupidity (crazy like an ox) ;)

“Epic New Age fruit-em-up. Relax while shooting. Final rating – 91/100″

Arcadelife review here.

Toucharcade review A Look at Jeff Minter’s Ethereal, New Age Shooter ‘Five A Day’

Meanwhile Gridrunner continues to get a lot of love, with people clearly loving the oldschool arcade vibe of it.

“Super-duper highly recommended. All hail llamas!” – Classic Game View video review; watch right here.

“Minter’s vision remains 100 per cent crystal clear, even after programming his way through three tumultuous decades of technological advancement. The fact that Gridrunner is just as addictive and challenging as any shooter you’ll find on the App Store – if not more so – is testament to the man’s talent.”

PocketGamer review here.

Gridrunner is also Editor’s Choice in the new issue of Tap! magazine, and garners a five’star rating and some very nice comments: “Out and out the best arcade shooter for iOS… . The shoot ’em up equivalent of juggling on a roller-coaster, Gridrunner strips back the genre, squashes you into a confined space, and then sneakily lobs regular surprises at your face, giving you a sensory assault and adrenaline rush.”

So yeah, pretty pleased all round with those!

And now it’s time for me to have another ALMIGHTY WHINGE about IAP abuse!

I’m not against all IAP. In principle it should be a useful inclusion allowing a player to purchase extra content for a game he’s already got. If used sensibly, I’m all for it.

An example of good IAP is in the excellent Pinball Arcade. You get a decent pinball table for free and the option to purchase extra ones via IAP, with new tables being released over coming months. Once you buy a new table it’s yours to play forever. This is a great use of IAP – the price you pay for a new table is really very good value given that in return you get an excellent simulation of a classic pinball machine that’s yours to keep and play whenever you like. I love pinball, so accumulating a library of great tables I can play on my iOS devices is something I value, and I’m happy to pay for. As soon as new tables come out I’ll be happy to hit the IAP button with a smile on my face.

The app is universal too, so all the tables automagically appear on my iPhone too. Jolly fair all round and I never feel like I’m being gouged for the sake of it. I’m buying something of value to me for a decent price. That’s how it should be.

Last night I downloaded a game for my Vita. Already the asking price was a bit more than I am accustomed to paying on iOS, but hey, it’s the Vita, that’s to be expected. Download, play, it’s quite a nice dexterity game with trippy graphics, looks nice on the awesome Vita screen (can’t help but think the touch-play mechanic would be better on a bigger device like an ipad, but hey). Play a few levels, have to retry a few as I get the hang of it, standard kind of thing.

Then out of the blue after I fail a level a “skip” button appears (not seen that before) and I accidentally hit it at the end of a level when I’d meant just to restart. The previous level disappears and I just think “oh poo, must remember not to hit skip next time it appears” as I’m happy enough to, you know, practice the failed level a bit and actually learn to play a bit better. That is, after all, how gaming works.

But then instead of the next level appearing I hear the PSN store lift music start playing. What? And then I find it’s taken me out of the game and I’m in the PSN store and it’s asking me for 79p to “buy” the ability to skip a level.

Excuse me?

You want the ENTIRE COST OF GRIDRUNNER just to switch on a single in-game option?

There is absolutely no reason at all for this. You’re not asking me to pay extra for something that it’s taken someone a while to produce and which adds worthwhile new content to the game. You’ve just deliberately disabled an already existent game option specifically so you can hassle me about it and wave the begging bowl under my nose. That isn’t adding value, that’s just arbitrary, graceless gouging.

Even the way it’s done is calculated to catch you out. There’s no “Are you sure you want to go to the PSN store?” warning if you should accidentally press the button, you’re there with that lift music playing before you know what’s happened. And there’s no “Fuck off, and never ask me about this again” option either, so I assume that skip button is going to be there forever now, even though I’m never going to use the damn thing. There should be an option to remove it if you don’t want it, but even if there were such an option they’d probably be asking 79p to do *that*.

It’s completely unnecessary and really annoying. I’m not sure I even want to play that game again knowing that the creators felt it necessary to resort to that kind of thing. Paying for decent extra worthwhile game content is fine. Releasing a game with little bits and pieces of it deliberately disabled so you can hassle me for 79p here, 79p there – fuck off.

Another abuse of IAP is offering players to pay to cheat at games. Example: in Words With Friends you can spend money to buy the ability to effectively look in the bag and see what letters are left yet to be drawn out in a game, something that’s against the actual rules of the game. But if you really wanted to cheat at WWF, well, you’re on your iPad, it’s a matter of a few finger pokes to the Internet where you can look shit up and cheat your little head off for free. But what’s the point? If you don’t play WWF with a straight bat then there’s no point in playing at all. The whole point is that you and your opponent agree to play by the same set of rules. One of my regular opponents is way better than me and routinely beats me hollow, but would I ever dream of paying to cheat against him? Of course not. Getting beaten by a stronger opponent is just part of playing the game. Playing people better than you is how you improve. When I do beat him I feel that I’ve genuinely done well. If I’d paid for an unfair advantage I’d just feel a bit shit.

Pay-to-cheat IAP is something that, far from enhancing the value of a game, instead offers the player the opportunity to spoil the game instead. Decent scores and wins should be earned by improving your skills, not by chucking 79p at a greedy developer.

You’d have to go some to beat EA though, who have outdone themselves with the veritable gouge-a-thon that is Tetris on iOS.

Now you’d think it’d be hard to ruin something as beautifully elegant and pure as Tetris with IAP, but they sure had a damned good go.

Consider: it’s EA, they are already fantastically rich. They could do the decent thing and release a nice version of Tetris for 79p, and everyone loves tetris and would like a nice iOS version so I am sure they’d still make plenty of money. Dev costs should be cheap because hey, it’s Tetris, it’s not rocket science. Hell I’d probably even pay £1.50 if it was a nice version.


For starters it’s $6.99. That’s seven Gridrunners.

Oh, and that’s Tetris ‘HD’. ‘HD’ on an iPad game is basically code for “you’re going to have to pay extra if you want to play it on the iPhone too” (and you do, although for some reason it’s only a dollar on iPhone). So maybe we’re getting some fancy extra visual whizzbang for that extra six bucks? Not according to the screenshots, no. The game looks nearly identical on both devices and I can’t see any reason in the world that it’s not universal.

That’s just the start though. EA set the game up to try their best to squeeze cash out of players long after the initial purchase. There’s the usual sly trick of having certain gameplay elements require “purchase” via in-game credits which are doled out painfully slowly during normal gameplay. Want to get them at a decent speed? Better get your credit card out.

There’s even a “subscription scheme” where you have to pay them $3 a month in order to receive the credits at a more realistic rate. Apparently joining the subscription scheme also makes the game boost your stats – reporting that you’ve cleared more lines than you actually have – in order to boost your online ranking.

Isn’t that just flat-out cheating though? Surely for any kind of ranking system to be worthwhile it has to accurately reflect the abilities of the players being ranked. The person ranked higher than me should be there through dint of being a better player. If he can get there through having been mug enough to cough up a subscription fee to EA then “ranking” becomes meaningless as it is no longer an accurate indication of a player’s skill.

There’s no avoiding it: pay-to-cheat IAP destroys the value of things like online leaderboards. If someone pays to get an in-game advantage then they shouldn’t be on the same leaderboards or ranked alongside non-financially-augmented players. If they are then the whole thing becomes pointless.

It’s a shame that they’ve seen fit to add this dog’s breakfast of awful IAP nonsense to Tetris, a game whose excellence stems in part from the fact that it’s a beautiful, elegant, simple game that doesn’t need a bunch of bells and whistles and subscription modes and tacky wallet-draining incentives tacked on. But hey, EA obviously aren’t rich enough or huge enough so let’s ruin a classic with a bunch of hateful “monetization” to screw the punters for even more, eh.

I really wish developers would simply release a good game for a fair price and be done with it. Yes, offer us extensions and extra content as IAP if they are genuinely worth it, like the pinball tables in Pinball Arcade – that’s totally fine. But charging extra for individual game options, allowing pay-to-cheat, making game features depend on stuff like in-game currency that’s doled out painfully slowly unless you get your wallet out – that’s a twat’s trick. For fuck’s sake stop it. Earn your money properly, by making good games, rather than attempting to extort it with such insulting, annoying crap.

And gamers – next time you see these shitty tricks being employed don’t just take it on the chin and pay up; that’ll only make matters worse. Go play something else instead, something created to satisfy you as a player rather than something created to squeeze even more money out of you in dribs and drabs by annoying you into submission. You’re a gamer, not a cash machine. Demand proper games with all their bits intact and don’t accept crippled crap you have to pay extra to make work decently.



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