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lundi 7 octobre 2013

GRU : Minion Rush

I really enjoyed GRU movie with my kids and the first great idea of this game was to focus on the GRU little minions. They are kind of a supernatural breeding between the lemmings (for their multitude and for their following-the-leader kind of attitude) and the Raving Rabbids (for their dumbness and hyperactivity) and make very good videogames characters. They are so cute, this is really a great idea! Let’s launch this game.
The introduction is perfect because in a few minutes, it goes right to the point: a scoring competition between you and your “friends”. And then you are immediately launched into the first level of the game, in a lab environment.
This is a platform genre game, which initially makes me think of the popular autorunner Temple Run but eventually recalls me of the mine track level of Hugo game I was watching on TV when I was a child. I remember playing with my parents phone while watching this show on TV… Years have passed and now I got (almost) this game inside my phone…
Enough memories, you can’t afford them, your minion is in a hurry and has no memory! Your character runs runs runs without a pause on a three wide path populated with obstacles to avoid and items to pick up. Using the tactile touchscreen, you can only go right or go left or jump or slide down on this path, added with some special toboggan-style parts where you have to play with your smartphone/tablet inclination.
Obstacles are coming fast and on the first impact you die. And you want to retry.

But this is just then when you come to realize the second great idea of this game. Your minion has no memory and you neither. So each time you will retry the same level, it won’t be the same: the paths are generated randomly! When it is well implemented as here, it adds a huge replay value to the game because you will always make a different game. This aspect reminds me of Spelunky! You can’t win the game only by learning each level by heart as you would play in musical rhythm games; to win you have to play and play again for increasing your own gaming skills and being quick in the execution.

Acting quickly is a key-skill in this game but this is also the failure in my experience with this game. My smartphone doesn’t seem to cope with the game and at times my touch gesture is not processed in real time so my minion goes straight to his death and it’s really frustrating. Also, the parts which play with device’s angle of inclination are an immediate game over for me, I could make my phone goes 360º without seeing any side movement of my minion.

Comparing with iOS iphone or ipad, a major drawback with Android platforms is the plural, you can find as many different android configurations as there are android devices: hundreds. So I can understand the game can’t be debugged on all of them and I have to assume that my phone is already outdated. As it is a two years-old middle range smartphone, a Sony Xperia Arc, it hurts a bit.
Nevertheless, this game has enough appeal to get me trying and trying again and finally be awarded by unlocking the level 2.

But to begin directly at this level, you have to pay 5 tokens, which I’ve done. Then if you want to switch again to level 1, even if you die, you have to pay again 5 tokens. 5 tokens is a really minor pay that might help you to be used a little to pay and pay in this game but I found it counterproductive. A freemium mechanic should not retain you from having fun, it should just be proposed as a way of having more fun. On a positive basis, not negative.
On the image below are the token prices in euros.

With 4500 tokens, you can buy a costume for your minion…

Another misplaced freemium mechanic is when you die, you have to wait like 5 seconds so you have the time to decide – and to be tempted – if you want to pay for resuming the game where you just died. Then you return to the menu where you have to press four buttons for finally getting thrown into the game again and maybe killed on the next second. And then you have to wait… and retry. In videogames, a golden die and retry rule is that when you die, you have to be respawned immediately so you could retry and retry again. This is not the case here.

Bye bye level 1, let’s stick to level 2. It takes place on the street and you have to go between cars and trucks, to avoid electrical wires, to jump above buses and all look more colourful than level 1 and great, and… I couldn’t go farther. My device’s hazardous inputs were really taking out all the fun.

Some really great ideas for this game but also some details which give a feeling that its main purpose is “take your money and run!” but that’s a minor drawback because of all the great content of this very nice game. I would like to notice again that my whole experience has been quite flawed by hardware problems; because of the action the game needs real time processing resources. So if there a cheap way to implement it, we would have love to see a low-fi version that could play on an extended base of hardware, and a full cash version with all the fun unlocked.
Nevertheless, it’s a very good game and when I eventually have a finest android gaming platform, I will surely give to these minions another go!!

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The Pinker Tones

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