Flap Flap Flappitty Flap Flap: Why is this thing so popular?

Flappy Bird is a spectacularly easy game to make, it’s monotonous as hell and it doesn’t provide any mechanics worth looking into as a game designer … and yet, it became EXTREMELY popular. To illustrate this point, let me just mention the fact that the ad-revenue (its only source of income and generally one of the worst ways to earn money) was generating $50.000 dollars each day.

This is the type of popularity that one can only dream of.

One could say that these types of events are dictated by luck … and, frankly, that is the truth. There are many many games that are absolutely brilliant but never achieve any kind of significant spike in popularity due to many reasons outside of the game itself. Then again, the games that do become popular do so for many reasons other than luck. One of those reasons may be a good marketing campaign, but most of the time the single most important reason is game design that caters to the masses in some way shape or form.

So, with that in mind, let’s look at this example and analyze what made this game so popular.

A half-chewed piece of lettuce could tell you that some reasons are:

  • It’s Free! (Let’s go viral! Yay!)
  • It’s Cute! (Mass market appeal! Yay!)
  • It’s polished! (Everything it does, it does well! Even if it is not much)
  • It has leaderboards connected to Social Media! (Let’s tap into that sweet sweet feeling of being one-upped by someone in something that doesn’t matter … Yay?)

Oooohhh, such insight!

such meme, much sarcasm, very overuse, wow
such meme, much obvious, very overuse, wow

*clears throat*

Alright, as you can tell by my sarcasm I’m not particularly interested in those attributes and I find it hard to believe that anyone would be. After all, those traits are common to 99.9999% (that’s a scientific percentage! you can tell by all the 9s) of all the games released for mobile platforms.

Cutting to the chase, what makes Flappy Bird interesting is that it became popular for two normally conflicting reasons.

  • The control scheme is so easy that a 2-year-old could learn it in seconds.
  • It’s friggin’ hard.

Yes, this is the novel concept of “Easy to learn, hard to master”. It is quite hard to believe that a game this simple, based on such an old design mantra became so popular. That is until you start thinking about the competition … please try to think of the amount of games you’ve played with absolutely f*cking horrible controls in a mobile device. Then think of the number of games that felt natural in said devices. Arcade games that felt natural, might I add.

Let me state this clearly: In mobile devices, there are almost no games that let the player control the action in a precise and elegant manner. Infinite runners are the only ones that had achieved this level of control and every single one is the same as the next. This is the first infinite runner variation we’ve ever seen (that I’m aware of at least).

Man, we as an industry suck at designing arcade games for mobiles. The only games that ever feel natural take the whole screen as one single giant button. Is this a limitation of the medium or is it the limited imagination of designers (myself not included since I’ve never truly designed mobile games … should I?). It feels like we are wrestling with a new concept, like a 90s website that tries and fails spectacularly at being intuitive.

Also, the creator of Flappy Bird took the game down because he … didn’t want the fame apparently? People were calling bullsh*t, that it was a publicity stunt but he really took the game down. Weird.

Also also, Kotaku said that this game ripped-off mario because it has green pipes </facepalm> Shouldn’t they mention too that it ripped off angry birds because it features a bird? </sarcasm>  I’m not linking to that article because f*ck them and their tabloid-like posts </indignation></novelty closing tags>

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UPDATE: Ok, everybody was screaming bloody murder because it’s a ripoff of this: http://www.zanorg.com/prodperso/pioupiou.html

Go ahead, play that thing, I’ll be waiting here.

I’ve wasted 15 seconds of my life playing that and all I can say is that it’s no wonder it never became popular: The art is ugly and overcomplicated, the sound effects are horrible, the feeling of gravity and impulse is almost non-existent, it insults you when you lose and when you fly out of the screen the game kills you.

And people argue that flappy bird was a ripoff? What the hell?? Flappy bird took the same concept and mechanics and made them shine. It’s not novel in any way shape or form and there was an apparent CONTROVERSY over this sh*t????

</fed up with this world>

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Elegantly Candy Crushing your soul

Candy Crush is a manipulative repugnant pustule of a game and it is magnificent at hiding that fact.

The sense of progression, the continuous addition of “new” mechanics, the psychological manipulations, the perceived rewards, the way it can orchestrate what the player can do or not … all of these systems are masterfully designed so that they stay on the right side of the line between barely perceptible exploitation and being openly exploitative.

SYMBOLISM!
GORGEOUS SYMBOLISM!

I’ve already talked about how these types of games openly frustrate players to scam them out of their money. Candy Crush is exactly like that, but is so much better at it. See, if you have an energy mechanic, then players know they are being constrained, that they won’t be able to do much in one sitting unless they pay. Candy Crush doesn’t have that, but it creates the same feeling of frustration in a much less visible way. How? Well, let me first take you through the actual mechanics of the game and I’ll get to that.

Candy Crush is a clone of Bejeweled in the sense that it copies every single important mechanic from it. This makes me very angry but not in the moral sense since Bejeweled was in itself a ripoff of other similar games that came before it. The reason for my anger is because I openly hate Bejeweled as well as every other Popcap game that I got my hands on. What’s interesting is that it’s always for the same reason: They maximize the ratio between interaction and spectacle, or in other words, they limit player interaction to absurd limits and then force the player to stop interacting so that they can watch and marvel at the consequences of their single input.

So, that was a very round-about way of saying that Candy Crush severely limits the player possibility space but every single action is seemingly important and can cascade into wildly different new possibility spaces. At any one time you’ll likely have 5 or less possible actions, but those actions can then cascade into very spectacular chain reactions.

That would fine if and only if the colored candies were placed at random … but of course, this is a free to play game and so it never leaves anything to randomness. Every step of the way, this game decides what to let you do, and consequently if you can win or not. In fact, it doesn’t matter how good you are at the game, you’ll always be able to progress because the game can literally make you win even if you’re trying your best to lose. And you’ll never notice unless you actively experiment on it. Just think about that for a second.

Having that in mind, let me remind/tell you that this game has a classical lives mechanic (lose one life every time you lose, can’t play if out of lives) where you’ll get a new life every half-hour. Doesn’t this ring a bell?* It’s basically controlling how much interaction and progression the player can have in a single play-through, but it’s doing it in a much more complex way than most other games. Nothing in its presentation screams frustration and at face value no single mechanic can be accused of limiting player action.

That is impressive to me, because they designed their core mechanics to frustrate the player in a unperceptible way. It may not look like it, but it takes a good game designer to achieve that and not be tempted to apply the same generic all-purpose patch that every free-to-play designer was so fond of*.

The psychological manipulations don’t stop there though. As I’ve already stated, Candy Crush manipulates candy placement at will, but it’s very intelligent with what to do and when, for instance, there are two distinct and very consistent behaviors that I’ve witnessed in the first 65 levels:

  • When the player is stuck on a level and is also low on lives, guide him/her towards almost completing the level and then in the last 3 movements make it impossible to win unless he/she spends one or more items.
  • Once the player has been struggling with a level, the next few ones should be conquered easily.

The façade of being a “fair” game si always maintained though. There’s enough uncertainty in each match as to make it impossible to truly get a sense of when the game is manipulating the player to win or to lose. Sometimes one wins by a landslide and does a ridiculous amount of points, sometimes one barely passes the winning conditions, sometimes one almost wins and sometimes it is literally impossible to win. There’s enough apparent randomness and noise as to make it all difficult to decipher, and that is what makes Candy Crush into such an interesting and yet magnificently repugnant game.

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* Give me an “Ener”! Give me a “Gy”! Give me a “Mecha”! Here you go. Give me a “Nics”! What does that spell? Internet Porn! When do we want it? Now! How do we want it? In the form of a recreation of a scene of a movie from the 1930’s! … Wow, how did we get here? I don’t know!

Image taken from here.

Exploiting a system

I’d like you to play No, Birdie, No! before I continue with this blog post, it’s important to know how this game plays to understand what I’ll be talking about.

Are you done? Cool, let’s move on.

What is to exploit a system? Well, some people might describe this concept as cheating within the rules but I don’t like that definition. No, I’d rather say that exploiting a system consists of playing within the rules but outside of the intention of the rules. It depends on the case, but most of the time, this is not a good thing. Breaking away from the purpose of the rules will almost always translate into bad gameplay, but as I said, it depends on the case.

No, Birdie, No! is a game designed to challenge the player’s motor skills by quickly identifying which finger corresponds to which button in a series of repeated exercises with an increasingly shorter duration. This game can be exceptionally hard if played as the designer intended, but exceptionally easy if exploited: By playing with only one key/finger held at any one time, the bird is going to position itself over said finger, then the player can switch to another finger and repeat the process ad-nauseum without any of his motor skills being put to the test. Eventually the game becomes so fast that the player is bound to make a mistake

But was that fun? What was the point of it? By exploiting the system we nullified what made the game interesting in the first place: Namely, the challenge. If there’s no challenge in a game specifically about a challenge, then there’s no game. It becomes a chore. A task. Plain old work.

Even knowing that there’s an easier way, the player should limit himself in order to actually enjoy playing. So, in the case of exploitable rule systems, player-driven rules are what can make or break the experience.

To push the idea further: The most optimal way to play a game might not be the best way to play it.

This last statement makes me ponder an interesting thought: Can we blame the designer for this? Is it his job to design the rules system in such a way as to make the optimal option the most interesting one? It certainly is his job to make the rules system the least exploitable possible.

In the case of No, Birdie, No!, I’d argue that it’s the simplicity of it that makes the game work. In order to patch the exploit one would have to either redesign the whole thing or add another layer on top of it (stamina that depletes faster when holding by less fingers) or just plain adding a new rule that says “if more than one finger is intentionally lifted, you fall to your death”. That last one is the most viable but it would be a step backwards in terms of … well, making sense. It’s less elegant and it’s nothing but a patch. On the other hand, having an exploitable system with leaderboard is never a good recipe.

Dark Souls critique

I suppose that you’ve already read my review of Dark Souls, so it goes without saying that I like the game. But contrary to what one might think, I like the game despite its difficulty, not because of it. Mmmhh, no, that’s not quite it, let me rephrase that: I like this game despite its efforts to infuriate me because I’ve side-stepped most of the infuriating stuff in one fell sweep by doing what many consider to be cheating: I used a walk-through.

Why would I do such a thing? Why would I want developers to stop holding my hand and telling me what I need to do at every step of the way and then go and play a game using a walk-through? Isn’t that a bit hypocritical of me? To put it simply, no, and here’s why: Dark Souls is a game that is full of “gotcha” moments that most of the time translate to instant death. It’s not quite DIAS, but it certainly comes close.

Let me give you some context before I delve deeper.

Dark Souls is a game where information is everything. If you know how a all the enemies in a zone behave, how the level is laid out and where the good items are placed, then you can breeze through entire sections of the game almost without taking any damage and making significant progress. A zone that might take a new player 40 minutes to traverse will translate into less than 5 for an experienced player.

I think this is a very good design choice and it is precisely why I like this game so much, because it lets you (the player) run free and explore whatever you like but punishes being careless. You can see the traps coming from a mile away if you take your time to look at the environment first. Those moments, those traps that were telegraphed are not gotcha moments, they are environmental hazards designed to make you more alert. What ARE gotcha moments are the traps/hazards that you can never see coming and can only decipher what they do once you’ve fallen into the trap. This wouldn’t be such a problem if the punishment for dying wasn’t so severe: you drop all your currencies on the floor and have only one chance to retrieve them. Most of the time this isn’t so bad because as I already said, information is everything, you’ve already been there so you know what’s going to come at you … but it is still infuriating to get killed instantly and have to replay the last 5 to 20 minutes or more.

So, to counter those gotcha moments I used a walk-through and consequently enjoyed my stay in the Dark Souls universe by knowing in advance what I must do to avoid getting killed unfairly.

By the way, the curse status may be the worst gotcha moment in the whole game, so let me spoil that for you: See that stat called “curse resistance”? That’s important for when you go to the level called Depths because there are quite a few frog-like enemies that throw a grey mist at you that will curse you if you have no curse resistance. What happens when you’re cursed? Well, you are killed f*cking instantly and when respawning at the bonfire you’ll have your health permanently halved. The only way to remove the curse immediately and get your full health bar back is by using an item called “purging stone”. If you don’t already have at least one of these, well … you’re f*cked. You’ll either have to farm the frogs until they drop a purging stone or you’ll have to get out of the depths and get to the female undead merchant were you can buy one of the stones for 6000 souls (or go all the way to the gargoyles tower without dying and purchase the same stones for 3000).

The second worst gotcha moment is probably the enemy called mimic. Yeah, if you’ve played any old-school japanese jRPG (mostly final fantasy) you know where this is going: Some of the chests in the game are not actually chests but monsters that look almost exactly like them, and when you try to open them, they attack you. Oh, sorry, did I say “attack”? I meant to say “devour you whole”. Silly me.

Critiquing The Marriage as a commercial game

In the previous post and peppered throughout the history of this blog, I’ve expressed my thoughts on how mechanics can drive the story of a game and how mechanics can add meaning to the story told by cutscenes. I’ve talked about how mainstream games waste or directly disregard the power the mechanics have to affect the story. I’ve talked about how many indie games have experimented with that power to varying degrees of success.

Basically, I’ve focused on what could be accomplished if the industry at large decided to experiment with this very subject, but I never sat down to think about the problems that games with “mechanics as meaning” have.

The short version:

Mechanics alone can’t work in and off themselves.

The long version:

For example, Rod Humble’s “The Marriage” is too abstract for its own good. Or in other words, I enjoy the explanation of it more than the game itself. It’s use of mechanics as metaphors was something unique at the time (2007), and so it got a lot of press and has been used as an example of what could be done with mechanics ever since. The problem is, as I’ve said, it’s too abstract. The only context provided is the title of the game itself. Without that, all the player sees is a bunch of squares and circles with strange spatial behaviours.

“Just like Tetris” you might say. Fair enough, there are similarities between the two, but the main difference here is that the purpose of Tetris is to provide challenge and nothing else. It isn’t trying to convey any meaning whatsoever, it’s a pure abstract game.

The Marriage certainly could be played as a challenging diversion but the focus of the game is nowhere near that. This game wants you to take the blue square and pink square and think of them as a married couple and that all the mechanics that surround them represent the nature of the relationship. The hardships they must endure, the sacrifices and so on.

It’s a very nice concept, the theory behind it is stellar, but the execution lacks any appeal as a game.

Other than for pure curiosity, there’s no other reason to play this game. In fact, given that it’s all explained by Humble himself, I find it more interesting to read about the mechanics than to play with them myself.

I’m hesitant to call the game a failure since, hey, I’m talking about it 5 years later, aren’t I?

Mmmhhh, let me put it this way then: It’s a failure as a game, but a success as an experiment.

But I’m left wondering … if The Marriage had mechanics that could stand on their own, could it be marketed as a “proper” game and be a success at it? My guess is that, yeah, why not? The problem I see with the game in its current state is that most players will become bored with it pretty fast. There’s no tutorial whatsoever, the mechanics are quite complicated and the context is almost non-existent. But if that weren’t the case, then it might serve it’s purpose better. Asking players to play and experiment just for the sake of play when there’s no apparent goal, there’s no context and no expressed challenge… well, not many people will be able to decipher what the game is trying to communicate.

There’s no reason why The Marriage can’t have more context to it. There’s no reason why there shouldn’t be a tutorial-like phase at the beginning as to make the player acclimated to the game before the metaphors and complicated interactions surface.

Mechanics alone can’t work in and off themselves. You need context. You need a tutorial. Basically, you have to acknowledge that the player exists and he/she has a minimum set of requirements that need to be fulfilled before they can actually enjoy the game they’re playing. Only then can an interesting conversation begin between the player and game designer.

As an addendum: Yes, I do know that this game was intended to be an experiment and nothing more. That doesn’t change my point though, and even then it helped me clear my mind about certain things I’ve talked about here.

If I get a little more inspiration on this topic I’m more than sure I’ll be talking about Passage next time around.

My favorite moment, deconstructed

I feel like I should put a spoiler warning for this whole post since it’s a very special moment that everybody should experience for themselves. But then again, this is deconstruction of a moment inside an 18-year-old game, so I’m not going to warn anybody, you all had enough time to play it, dangit!

Right, so, the following video shows my favorite moment in all of gaming, which surprisingly enough, comes from the GameBoy. Unsurprisingly, it’s from a Zelda game: Link’s Awakening.

Now, why was this moment so special for me? After all, you can steal pretty much anything in RPGs like Fallout, even from shopkeepers. What’s the difference?

Simple, my dear non-existent readers, it’s because in most games that give the ability to steal (or any other ability, really) they do so explicitly. It’s always a mechanic specifically showcased to the player or at least made obvious without much investigation. The thing is, the hint doesn’t come from a tutorial or anything of the sort. Here, the ability to steal is subtly hinted at by a few other mechanics.

Let me say that again: The ability to steal is subtly hinted at by a few other mechanics.

I don’t know if I should play games (of the video or the board variety) more often, but I can’t sincerely remember any other game where I identified a mechanic through other mechanics. Not by chance, not by accident, but by pure deduction and exploration of the set of rules.

I feel like I should generalize this a little further, so here’s the same idea in other words: an unspoken rule being discovered by the combination of a set of rules.

I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid and discovered this, I couldn’t believe what I just saw. It’s only now that I ponder why that moment was so wonderful that I realize quite how masterful the design of this game is. But that’s not the whole story of course, there’s more to this moment. So, to explore it further, let’s take a look at the specific rules that hint at the ability to steal:

  1. Items can be picked up.
  2. Link can move while holding an item.
  3. The shopkeeper always turns to face Link, but he has a delay of a second or two.
  4. If Link tries to go out while holding an item, then the ‘keep will give him a warning.

One would expect quite a few mechanics or interconnections between them to achieve something that almost no game does. And here it is, with only four basic rules that are very easy to understand and to master. That is at face value of course, but as we’ve seen, there’s something beneath the surface.

Link's Awakening
Behind that innocent smile, Link is hiding something from you. Something obscure and morally corrupt. Are you prepared to explore the dark corners of the (Hy)rules? Remember, there's severe consequences for such actions ... Thief.

Any person can discover the first, second and fourth rules with a little exploration since they are more than apparent. But in order to discover the hidden ability to steal, one needs to observe the shopkeeper first and deduce the mechanics that dictate where he’s facing. Only then can the idea of stealing come to mind. A theory forms in your head:

If I try to exit the shop while the shopkeeper isn’t looking, maybe he won’t warn me again. Something interesting might happen!

Almost every game I’ve played has given me similar experiences of rule exploration like this one, but no other game actually delivered the goods when I tested to see if any of my theories came true. Here, the game recognizes your actions and acts accordingly. Where most games would just slap your wrist for trying to break the rules, here’s a game that encourages this kind of play. Come, explore the boundaries and be surprised when unexpected rules pop up. It’s a very rare sight indeed, even more so in the games of today.

Not since the days of combining every item with every object in the scenery of “Super Adventure Game X: The click-ening” have I been so euphoric to prove a theory of mine right. There’s a certain fun to be had when a theory forms in your head and turns out that it actually works. After all, it’s what made adventure games fun, isn’t it? … and that’s exactly why they were so freaking frustrating.

Why? In order to discover these new rules, the player has to think like the designer, or the designer has to think like the player (whichever view suits your tastes … and yes, there’s a difference*). This, coupled with the wrong design decisions can make any game the most frustrating piece of software on the planet. Or, with the right decisions, my favorite moment in all of gaming.

Here’s what Link’s Awakening did:

  1. The discovery of the ability to steal is not mandatory. It’s an option.

Yep, that’s it. There are other touches like the scene that plays out when you go back to the shop, but being optional is the main reason why I liked this moment so much: It wasn’t forced on me at any point, so I had the time to explore the environments and the rules that govern them at my own pace, without being constantly nagged by the game designer telling me “There’s something hidden here! Find out what it is or we won’t let you play anymore!”.

I can’t stress it enough: As a designer, when you make leaps of logic a mandatory obstacle to progression, you’re setting up your players for the world’s most frustrating game ever made. Especially if you go by the Gabriel Knight 3’s school of thought. But the death of adventure games (or rather, their suicide, in Old Man Murray’s words) is another topic entirely.

The way this Zelda game did it is one of the correct ways, in my opinion. Sure, not everybody is going to discover the ability to steal but that’s miles better than either making it mandatory, hinting at it explicitly or cutting it out of the game entirely. It rewards players that explore the ruleset and for me, that was enough to make it my favorite moment.

*Which I’m not going to elaborate on out of fear of bloating this post with lots of off-topic babbling.**

**Hey, look! Restraint! That’s something you don’t see from me everyday, so don’t get used to it! 😛

PS: After you steal something, every character in the game will refer to Link as “Thief”. Isn’t that just awesome?

A love letter to ZooZoo Club

ZooZoo Club could be summed up in just one word: eeeeeeevil. Or alternatively, for something with more substance, it could be summed up in one sentence: A completely unoriginal, disgusting and above all evil piece of… cellphone software.

At first I thought that the developers didn’t care about this game at all and they just phoned it home (go ahead, cringe at that pun, it deserves it), but then I had a revelation: This was on purpose. Nobody can make a game this bad by mistake, nobody is this misguided. This game was made out of pure evil and I’m sure the developers cackled compulsively during the whole month of development with insane expressions on their faces and a spooky soundtrack playing in the background, accompanied by constant lighting bolts while wind and rain bashed through their derelict windows.

So you can imagine, it makes great critique material =D

First of all, it’s a bejeweled clone, which means it’s a match-3 game where you must match three or more adjacent blocks of the same color in rows or columns to gain points.

Booooring! That isn’t evil, that’s just lazy! Well, hold your horses, I haven’t started yet. Put on your seat-belts because this is gonna be a hell of a ride, kids.

Right. Well, let’s see what we have here… Oh, yes, yes yes yes, let’s start with this little nugget: It gets harder the more you play, with incredible speed. Yes, it gradually adds a few more “colors” of blocks, but those are nothing compared to the timer of doom. Yes, the timer of doom. We’re gonna make this game so hard, so fast that you’ll never be able to pass level 9. We’ll trap the players into a false sense of security with our easy initial difficulty and then snap the game from their tiny little fingers and slap them around with our game over screen.

Are you scared yet? No? Good, let's keep going then and be sure to tell me when to stop so I can safely ignore your pitiful pleads.
Are you scared yet? No? Good, let's keep going then and be sure to tell me when to stop so I can safely ignore your pitiful cries for help.

Additionally, there will be three “colors” of blocks that are literally the same color! Incredible, right? You’d think that three types of orange blocks would be pushing it too far, revealing our nature too soon, announcing to the player that the joke is on him/her. But no, you see, we’ll make each block look different but retain the same color, so it can be really freaking hard to distinguish between them at first sight but disguising this evil deed as a simple “graphic error” or just a “usability issue”. The poor idiots, they won’t know what hit them. They’ll be begging for mercy to the panda god in a matter of minutes! What’s the panda god you say? Nay, we’ll leave that nugget of joy for last, for it is the most blatant expression of our evilness. Just wait, we’ll get to it soon enough.

In order to maintain this façade of “casual game” we’ll add special blocks that clear complete rows, columns, both of them or one type of block at random. The beauty of it is that they will only appear at the most unfortunate places and be completely absent in the later levels, effectively making the first levels easier and the later levels harder. Making the soul-crushing process a lot more faster (and efficient too!). Furthermore, since they are completely random they won’t allow for any kind of strategy to be formed, the player will eventually surrender to just do the first thing he sees, following our every order, easing him into the eventual holo… eeerr… birthday? Yeah, let’s go with birthday. Caust. Birthdaycaust.

We’ll make the point system extremely simple: one point per block cleared. So the special blocks will grant a crazy amount of points but since we control those things there’s hardly any hope for the player. Then, apart from that, the player will tend to do the 3 block matches first because there’s hardly incentive to go one step further and do harder 4 block matches, since there’s only a 1 point difference between the two.

But that’s not enough, we must punish the player in the most bizarre way possible! … But how? Oh! I know! Let’s make it so that when the player clears a level, the whole screen get’s wiped and refilled again.  That’ll surely destroy any sense of strategy and/or dignity the player might have had left. Just imagine it: the player will be waiting for that magical red block to pop up and let him do a 5 block match but he’ll be forced to do other matches until the sweet sweet moment happens. Slowly but firmly, the player will start to realize that this strategy thing might not be a good idea and then BAM! level ends, wipes the whole screen and the player will shed a single tear of sorrow and bitterness and maybe a little bit of rage. And then he’ll be graced with the sight of our great panda god.

Oh, but there’s more! It has been said before, but nobody has said it with more sinister meaning in mind: It’s not a bug, it’s a feature. A cold blooded feature. So without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, let me present you: the match checking. Of doom! You see, people, like in any match 3 game, there’s the scenario where no possible matches remain on the screen. We have the courtesy of recognizing this issue when it happens and refilling the screen with a new set of blocks for the player. No, we are not nice people, don’t you dare leave your seat in disgust, we never do anything without an underhanded agenda, let me assure you that. Nono, we do this with an evil grin firmly planted on our faces. Oh, what’s this? A special block you say? Nono, I don’t know what’s that, it surely isn’t anything useful I’m sure, let me refill the screen for you since you don’t appear to have any matches left MWAHWAHWAH. That’s right, we don’t consider special blocks when checking to see if the screen has any possible matches left. There’s nothing like seeing a player’s face right when our game cleans up the screen just when he has 5 or more of those suckers on the screen. Fills us with joy and wonder every time.

But where is the coup d’etat? Where’s the breaking point? Where do we finally break the player and make him/her bow before us? Ah, that’s where our god, the laughing panda comes in and steals the show. Everything else I’ve described up until now is child’s play, mere foreplay. Simple appetizers before the main course. Here is where it gets serious: the game over screen. Everything has been building up to this point and let me just say that it won’t disappoint anybody.

But our lord does not have only one face, he possesses twice that amount! First, he shows us the meticulous thinker:

Truly, a sight to behold. Please excuse the blurriness of the picture, but the awesomeness of the lord has these kinds of side-effects.
Truly, a sight to behold. Please excuse the blurriness of the picture, but the awesomeness of the lord has these kinds of side-effects.

This face shows us that he’s not too pleased with the player’s performance, that he can’t believe how unworthy of his presence the player is. He’s thinking, calmly analyzing the situation to see what would the most evil expression possible be. Then, in a matter of nanoseconds, he acts:

A perfect execution of mockery. Capturing this moment in photograph proved to be extremely difficult, but these last 5 years of hard work have been worth it, just so I can share the joy with my fellow man.
A perfect execution of mockery. Capturing this moment in photograph proved to be extremely difficult, but these last 5 years of hard work have been worth it, just so I can share the joy with the whole internet.

Oh that’s good. That’s probably going to leave a psychological scar right there. I mean, look at that expression! The lord looks so happy that the player lost, so overwhelmed with joy that it just bursts out of his face with incredible ease. It’s the ultimate schadenfreude, the perfect representation of bliss.

There’s nothing that can top that, so with that, I close my perfectly objective critique of ZooZoo Club.

[/cackling insanity]