phone stratego

Let's Be Sanctimonious About Cell Phone Games

Ah, smartphones. The object of many a crotchety bastard's editorial cartoon. One of the many implements that those damn millenials are using to be lazy and also advance society too quickly, simultaneously. It's tempting to consider smartphones to be the next advancement in cell phone evolution; The Super Mutant of portable telecommunications devices. In truth, however, smartphones aren't all that different than the flip-phones and Nokias of the past. Their existance owes to one of the most incredible examples of runaway feature bloat ever devised.

If you spend time around hardcore leftists (you know, the guys who show up to tattoo parlours too often and always wear vests and NOFX tee shirts), you'll probably hear the rhetorical phrase "Did you know you wanted a smartphone before consumerism told you you did?" Regardless of your opinions on the nature of the labour theory of value and the feasibility of a stateless, classless society, there's a pretty clear grain of wisdom there, I think. Sure, smartphones are convenient, but the cynical hyper-capitalist system in which we live has taught us time and time again that the relationship between convenience and privacy is more of a tradeoff. It's convenient to use Google services like Drive to have a central place to store your files - but the fact is, if you're using Google Drive, you're basically storing that information on somebody else's computer. In theory, the only reason Google would divulge what's in your Drive account is if they received a subpoena notice, but come on. It's Google. The motherfuckers know who you are, and they know all your kinks, too.

Likewise, it sure is convenient to get online from anywhere that your cell has service, and send your nudes to your confidant over Skype, but fact is that if you do that, then Microsoft has your nudes too.

What's really funny is when people send nudes over Snapchat, sometimes scribbling over their naughty bits or putting those tacky stickers on their nips. Aside from the fact that now some sweaty meathead at Snapchat's servers is whacking it to your nudes, those scribbles and stickers are a separate layer from the original image, and, contrary to Snapchat's lies marketing, those photos do not magically go away after the recipient looks at them. All it takes to get a glance at those huge areolas for as long as you want is a dig through the Android phone's file system.

But enough at how trading nudes on an allegedly confidential chat program could technically be considered voyeurism, and thus is especially kinky, we're here to talk about video games.

See, smartphones are rather powerful little devices. If some guy ported Doom to a calculator, you can be sure as shit that some Silicon Valley poindexter, while taking a break from masturbating furiously to Snapchat nudes, got a bright idea: "What if there were games for smartphones? That would really move product!"

I'm not here to call someone a scrub or a casual for enjoying phone games, but I am here to tell you that if you do, no you don't, you're wrong, you hate them. See, the first problem poindexter there ran into was that, even accounting for the many different directions in which you can swipe your finger across the phone screen, there's not a lot of room for graceful control schemes. Some circumvented this by putting a little game-pad ui on the screen for your sausage-like thumbs to tap on. This is one of the worst solutions because the only physical feedback you get on a button press is a little vibration, if even that, and you will discover that even playing a dirt simple platformer becomes a feat of olympic dexterity.

The consequence of this is that phone games were forced to be extremely simple and awful. Because the gameplay of almost all possible games for phones is intrinsically non-rewarding and boring, phone games companies were forced to dispense more literal rewards: virtual currencies with which to buy useless bullshit. If you get sucked into these phone games, you'll quickly realize that the only reason you're playing Jetpack Joyride or Temple Run or Enema Attack! is to get all the extra bonus shit. The arcade-game goal of beating previous high scores becomes secondary to collecting money like you're fucking Wario, whether money is gained through collecting coins or shooting at things. These games sometimes also include "missions," which reward you with more money. These "missions" are stupid things for the player to do in the game because the game told them to do it, like "run for 100 meters" or "purchase an item from the in-game shop". I'm sure that's some kind of classical conditioning.

But hope wasn't lost. See, there are some games that you can control with just a mouse, right? No, not point-and-click, those suck intrinsically. No, I'm talking strategy games. One of the last remnants of the era when games required players to use their brains instead of dumbing itself down so that people who are literally incapable of learning, navigating, or thinking can play. I mean, sure, the genre kind of declined after the sixteenth Command & Conquer title, but phones would be a great platform for at least simplified ones... right?

I'm yanking your chain; I already know that phone strategy games are buffalo shit on a stick.

Let's talk about Clash of Clans.

Clash of Clans promises to be a bog-standard real-time strategy game - and by all accounts, it should be. You build up your town, attack other people's towns to gain resources, while at the same time generating your own. Aside from the fact that the game uses a "Freemium" model and is therefore already bad objectively, any guy can tell you how hard it is to integrate any strategy genre with MMO elements. I'm not one to dismiss the concept as impossible out of hand, but Clash is decidedly not the way to do it.

The units in this game are bog-standard (You're gonna see that phrase a lot). You have the barbarian, always a guy; archers, who are, of course, always women (because everybody knows that archery is a skill that requires very little strength and is therefore well-suited to the frail feeemale form - at least, according to shitty fantasy authors) and then every unit aside from that serves similar roles in between. Some fly, some walk, with all the weaknesses and strengths of each. This is all fine and good except for two things: Firstly, that units simply do not exist until you attack someone else's town; Secondly, units do not ever get a chance to fight each other.

What this means is that the defense of your base is out of your hands completely. The only "strategy" you get to use is the layout of your base, which sounds smart and cool at first but quickly becomes dumb when you figure out the town design tricks that make defending it from players in your rank babby easy. Therefore, if you figure this out, you're more likely to have your town knocked over by players with a higher rank than you, who have more units and upgrades at their disposal, because the matchmaking in Clash is the stuff of legends. This also means that you will end up picking on lower-ranked players by clicking the "next town" button when you try to battle for the easy gold.

There's also a single-player campaign element, but it's worthless. The plot is "bad goblins exist; genocide them." Not exactly the plot that I'd hire James Earl Jones to star in. The campaign progresses linearly in terms of difficulty, but it's impossible to play them all in sequence because the game expects you to grind between missions to build up your base. This sounds fine and good, if not for the "builder" game mechanic.

The way town building in this game is handled is so shameful it boggles the mind. Firstly, upgrades and construction projects are measured in real time - at first, you will build things in anywhere from seven seconds to a minute, but later in the game, upgrading your Town Hall literally takes weeks. This is especially bullshit because the game makes you pay through the fucking nose for these upgrades, so it's pretty obvious that Supercell is just trying to squeeze as much time out of you as they can to keep you consuming. Because that's what games are about, right? Dangling a carrot on a stick in front of the player to keep them playing? Compounding the fact that buildings take forever to build is the fact that the number of buildings and upgrades you can work on at once is limited by "Builders." These are similar to Peons/Peasants from Warcraft, at first. However, unlike Peasants, Builders cost a fuck-tonne of the game's rarest in-game currency: Gems. You start with two Builders, and pretty much the only way to get more before the heat death of the fucking universe is to pay real money for them. So let's break it down. In this real time strategy game:

Yet, of course, this heap of shite has got the gaming press sucking on Supercell's mediocre weiners. 80% on GameRankings doesn't seem very impressive - and if MGS V got that score, gamers worldwide would flip their shit and send death threats - but it's about 30% too high for a game that does nothing original and exists to bleed dry the wallets of people who don't know any better.

And no one tell me "It's a mobile game, who cares" because shut the fuck up. Millions of people paid money for this garbage. I'm allowed to be mad. Plus, I bet Snapchat is sharing your nudes with the guys that developed this hogwash.

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