For all my lambasting of mobile gaming – that is games for mobile phones and tablets, not handheld consoles – I have spent a significant amount of time playing them lately.
Due to having a shiny new smartphone and not having the time to sit down and play all the AAA games that have come out for the holidays, I have turned to the world of mobile gaming.
First up is the Hipster Whale developed game Crossy Road. In summary, it’s nothing short of brilliant for reasons I can’t explain. And believe me, I’ve thought about it a lot. I know it’s just Frogger and I know it’s a free to play game that uses in‑game advertising and payments, but it takes both of these cons and flips them on their road-kill heads.
The aim of the game is to avoid traffic and jump on logs to cross rivers. Each step forward is an extra point for the high score that taunts you in the top left corner of the screen.
Manoeuvring between seven lanes is difficult enough, but most struggle with using the logs to cross rivers. This is the simple sort of genius that videogames excel at. As the brain becomes familiar with avoiding the objects moving across the screen, it then has to invert this technique to aim for the objects. The simplicity of the inversed gameplay is brilliant, fluid and keeps you on your toes.
The comparison to Frogger is immediately obvious and the developers have made no effort to hide this. How does it overcome the blatant imitation? Two ways: personality and a fantastic use of in-game currency.
Crossy Road comes with a slew of block shaped characters that embraces classic jokes, memes and recognisable stereotypes. That these characters can also reskin or influence their environment only adds to the charm. If your friends are playing, collecting all of the characters adds another challenge as you compete for top scores.
Then there’s the free-to-play scourge of in-game payments and advertisements. Fear not, Crossy Road uses these two money-making schemes in such an inoffensive way that it is easy to embrace or ignore.
Want to collect every character without spending that proverbial fat cash? Great, you’ve further incentive to collect the gold coins found while playing. It’s just another simple challenge but one that can be ignored or pursued, sometimes at the behest of your score. The game also presents you a gift of coins every six hours, totalling to anything between 20 and 120 coins.
To unlock characters without spending any of your real cash, you must use the lucky dip feature which costs 100 coins to use. Be warned, you can win the same character more than once, so the more characters you unlock the more difficult it becomes to unlock others.
Within ten minutes of playing Crossy Road it’s apparent that the game relies less on luck and reaction but more on timing and forward thinking. You must keep your eye on the oncoming traffic and for an opening onto the floating logs. The game also places lily pads that are stationary in the rivers, but some of these can be misleading as they don’t lead anywhere and you are forced to move backwards with an obstructed view. Another factor is stress: the more stressed you enter the game, the less likely you will succeed. Crossy Road is about taking a breath of fresh air to compose body and mind whilst entering the game, and unleashing all the anger when your character dives headfirst into an oncoming train.
So, why did the gamer cross the Crossy Road? Because it’s damn fun, that’s why.
Current top score: 532.
Characters unlocked; 43/53 (Though you have to buy the Piggy Bank character, which I probably will never do, so let’s say it’s out of 52)