#2 [usability review]: Tape it Up!

As part of my challenge of gathering 30 game usability reviews, I’ve been collecting some mobile games (and other games if I have the opportunity to play them) and writing about them as a cool exercise (why not?).


Figure 1. First screen of the game Tape it Up! Dev: Devsisters corp.

What is the game about
This is a mobile game designed for Android and iOS platforms. In the game you are a “tape” and you need to run through the boxes in a “factory” (Figure 1). In order to win the game you have to swipe left/right and avoid falling in the empty spaces. Sometimes you can fall into boxes with prizes and you may collect letters that would give you a limited power-up/advantage. I’ve tried this game in an iPhone.

Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tape-it-up/id1147622827?mt=8


Figure 2. Gameplay

Pretty good things:

a) New characters = new assets. The utilisation of characters and assets is very good and the changes in the game scenario, sound and character makes it more interesting for the player, particularly because those changes are not predictable. For example, when the character is a film, the whole scenario changes to “film” (Figure 2).

b) Ability to try new characters. After losing, players can try new characters for free. However this is only temporary. If the payer doesn’t play attention, after using the new character she will be charged.

c) Visualisation of achievements (from Game Center). Although it would be good to see this in the game itself, when the player receives the notification that she has collected a number of points or coins without stop, it is very gratifying.

d) Game goals are clear and easy to play. When the player starts, there is a small tutorial that is part of the game and the controls are very simple. With the swipe and tapping to get some speed, players might feel very familiar with the controls. It works well in a mobile phone and players could play with both hands or one. Since the gameplay is short, the game could be suitable for people who doesn’t have enough time to engage with long gameplay.

e) FEVER. Collection is a key component is this game and it is what makes it pleasurable. The FEVER letters are fun and the changes in the scenario and music are very well-designed. It would make players collect more letters.

f) Question mark boxes. All question mark boxes are very good since it makes the player more curious. When the player unlocks a new character, there is an animation of the boxes and the character appears (Figure 3). Although the player knows the selected character, the idea of something being “hidden” is very pleasant.

g) Collecting daily gifts. The idea of collecting gifts is very good and the animation in the street makes it more special (Figure 4).


Figure 2. New scenario for the “film” tape. Dev: Devsisters corp.


Figure 3. Unlocking a new character. Dev: Devsisters corp.


Figure 4. Getting your gift in the middle of the street. Dev: Devsisters corp.

Some design aspects that could be improved:

a) Why do I get a “reward” that is a video that stops my experience? When you jump in the box with the question mark, there is the possibility to get a video jumping into your face. Suggestion: I would remove this. Personally, I think it takes the fantasy away from the game and it forces the player to accept the video after playing very hard in the game.

b) What is the real reward of the game? Not sure if the scores matter as much as getting new characters or unlocking new content. You can see the scores, but there is no real comparison since your position might be very far from the top ones. Suggestion: At the end of the game, maybe the comparison table could appear in order to show the player that she is almost there. Or maybe the scores could be more obvious. For example: beat your score to unlock xxxx. If the player is playing with Facebook integration, maybe the screen of comparison could appear after gameplay. With that, players would be able to compare their scores easily.

c) The game gets repetitive. The gameplay is very simple and repetitive. Although this is not an issue, in this game it is very obvious. Since the beginning is the same (always), it can become a bit boring. Suggestion: once the player unlocks new characters, designers could not only change the scenario and assets, but also give the character new features or change the position of the boxes for a while.

d) Jumping into another level. This feature could be good in order to make the player pay with virtual money to jump into another level. However, since the gameplay is the same (maybe just harder), this function might lose its purpose, unless the player can see the progress from other people.  Suggestion: add something for the player to look forward to in the higher levels. Maybe in the level 10, the factory is prettier or there would be a “boss” there or something that actually requires the player to jump to another level. For example, Temple Run used to do something like that in their first game, in which players could see the distance of their friends.

Have a look at the gameplay here:

#1 [usability review] Lost Maze

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/lost-maze/id1130186793?mt=8
Copyright: ZHIPENG WANG

Recently, I’ve been playing and testing a few apps and games for fun. This week, I’ve tested the mobile game “LOST MAZE”, from the developer ZHIPENG WANG. While playing the game I was looking at elements that were good and easy to use and elements that could be improved. The structure of this post is composed of a small description of the mobile game, followed by good and bad points and a few recommendations. I’ve played this one in the iPad. Hope you enjoy it! :)

Description
The game is a 3D mobile game in which you have different levels of a maze to decide the best way to your home. The narrative is about collecting items that were stolen by “darkness” (represented by black and white interface). You start as a girl and during the game you can buy new characters. The maze is 3D and you can drag the best “way” for your character to pass. This maze is like a “cryptex” and you have to choose the best combination for your character to pass safely. The character walks through the maze automatically. You have the option to “stop” the character and then choose the best way in the maze. You win each time you pass a level. There are many ways for you to lose: you can be eaten by a flower or jump in a wrong way. This changes according to each level.

Good points

The points that I’ve enjoyed in the game were actually the animation and the little story. I think when darkness goes and steals things from the girl’s place it’s quite interesting. When you have to collect the items to put them back to the “map” is quite unusual as well for a mobile game (this one was played in iPad). The music is good too.

IMG_0629

Not so good points

a) In-app purchase surprise

My first comment was: “Why do I need to buy more energy?”. It is not clear what this energy is about. I didn’t realise the moves were related to energy and it took me 4 levels to find this out.

b) Font, typography quality

The button “stop” has a very poor quality, which could give an impression that the game has poor graphics. The same happens in the screen when you click in the red stone to buy more energy. I understand it was a way to create a shade because of the background, but it didn’t look nice.

c) Timing to stop and change the way

Around level 3, when you start having the “jump” I took a long time to stop the character and move the bits to the right position. It could be a bug or something, but it made me feel very frustrated.

d) Win scene

The win scene does not fit the overall style of the game. The graphics look very different and distorted. The idea is good, but the integration was not well executed. I’ve showed other people and their comments were: “the graphics are not good, right?”. You can also see how many steps you’ve taken in this screen, which doesn’t mean anything in terms of the game.

e) IAP icons and red stone

What are the red stones? I think the screen for the IAP is problematic and the icons do not fit the 3D style of the game.

IMG_0630

Recommendations

a) Evidence of energy

As a player, you want to know the consequences of your actions in the game. You could show to the player that when you stop and walk you lose energy. This is not clear in the whole game. Maybe in the first level, when you do the first challenge, it could be evident that you lose energy. Maybe the steps that you’ve taken could show how much energy you lost.

b) Integration of the graphics

The stones and the other icons don’t look 3D. You could redesign those icons for a 3D style. The stones could also have a purpose and integration with the narrative.

c) Stop and walk

This action is not consistent as sometimes you can’t stop and the game forces you to lose. It is important to solve this type of bug very quick!

Conclusion

I would say that it was a good game, but the IAP integration was very frustrating and the bugs made me feel without motivation to continue playing it. In sum, it is possible that those games might need a kind of heuristics of usability related to IAP. For example, as the game as IAP structures, the user should be aware of that. I strongly suggest that UX designers and researchers could come up with ideas to analyse and measure the effectiveness of IAP in games like that.

Game link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/lost-maze/id1130186793?mt=8 / Played in 28th August 2016