So you’re on Google+ and you’ve seen with some trepidation that social games have come to the platform. Firstly, fear not, because all the game posts are confined to their own stream that is separate from the day to day social interactions. Said game stream needs some work — you can’t filter it in any way at the moment, for example — but at least it means your conversations aren’t continually interrupted with “HEY! I NEED SOME PAINTBRUSHES! CLICK HERE AND GET FREE GIFTS!” as they are on Facebook. The lack of the “Wall” as a concept on G+ also helps with this — interactions take place in a timeline, like Twitter, but with comments, like Facebook. It’s a good system.
But you want to know about these games, right? Millions of people play Facebook/social games every day and you’ve never dared take the plunge. So here’s a brief look at each of them, gleaned from myself taking a brief look at each of them so you don’t have to. I’m not pretending these are in-depth or even fair reviews, just first impressions from the amount of time an average user might take to decide whether or not to pursue playing a game further.
You probably know by now whether or not you love or hate Angry Birds and its unpredictable physics model. This is no different from the norm. Well, there is one slight difference: the “teamwork” levels. Don’t get too excited by the prospect of multiplayer action, though — all the “teamwork” aspect is is all your friends’ stars being added together in an attempt to unlock further levels.
It’s Bejeweled Blitz, the one-minute twist on traditional Bejeweled play. It features a tournament system and doesn’t hassle you every two minutes to share everything you’ve done. It does feature a completely unnecessary experience point system, however.
It’s Bust A Move, demonstrating ably the first refuge of an unfortunately large number of unscrupulous social game developers: ripping off someone else’s game and reskinning it. It’s not a bad version of Bust A Move, but the fact it’s a shameless clone is a little grating.
City of Wonder
Clearly trying to be Civilization, right down to ripping off the things the advisors say when they’re suggesting what to research next, this doesn’t have the depth of Meier’s game. If you enjoy building cities without having to worry about pesky geographical principles or simulation elements, then you might like this, otherwise it’s one to give a miss. Weird art style, too.
Absolute garbage. A game about crime should be about the thrill and the tension of potentially getting caught; here, it’s about clicking on things and watching progress bars. In essence, it’s Farmville, only with guns. This might sound great, but it’s actually awful. A waste of a potentially rich theme; avoid.
A reasonable puzzle game with a simple premise — click groups of 3 or more gems that touch orthogonally to make them disappear. Repeat for one minute. It’s sort of like Bejeweled Blitz but with a different mechanic. There’s a weekly tournament option like PopCap’s classic, but you have to unlock it by levelling up to level 3. Players who play this game more have an unfair advantage by getting automatic score boosts depending on their “experience” level.
Dragon Age Legends
Probably the best of the bunch in that it demands some degree of interaction on the player, and makes use of your friends in an excellent way. Dragon Age Legends is a combat-focused RPG where they player moves from battle to battle, engaging increasingly tough hordes of enemies in turn-based combat with up to two companions initially. The social twist is that these companions are your friends who are also playing the game, complete with the equipment and skills they’ve chosen to outfit them with — essentially a form of asynchronous cooperative multiplayer. For those with no friends, the game also provides a selection of virtual friends for you, too.
While not as deep as a “real” RPG, Dragon Age Legends goes some way to showing that traditional game mechanics don’t necessarily have to be sacrificed for the sake of making the game friendly to the social network audience.
Dragons of Atlantis
This is by “hardcore social games” specialist Kabam, and is one of the most tedious games I’ve ever played, not helped by the fact that the tutorial (disguised as a list of “quests”, as usual) goes on for approximately fifteen bajillion years and steps you through EVERY SINGLE STEP YOU MIGHT HAVE ACTUALLY WANTED TO MAKE YOURSELF ANYWAY with “rewards” along the way. The game is about building your city state and then kicking the shit out of other players, but it will take you a good few hours to get to a stage where you’re able to attack another player — and you may well have been bored shitless prior to that due to the fact that some buildings take 30-60 minutes of real time to build.
Dragons of Atlantis is mildly unusual among social games in that it features a real-time chat interface, though. The community doesn’t know the words “you’re” and “they’re” exist, and there seems to be an awful lot of people trolling for cybersex. There are probably better places to do this than in a public chat window that is two lines of text high in a tedious game about running a city that’s supposedly in Atlantis (I thought Atlantis was a city?). Also there are dragons, apparently.
Also from Kabam, this game gets going a bit quicker than Dragons of Atlantis but is fundamentally pretty much the same game, only with a sci-fi skin. It looks like StarCraft but it really isn’t — you have no direct strategic control over your troops when attacking a base, for example.
It’s Worms, basically, though victory is determined by how much total damage you do, not by who is eliminated first. You have a significantly more limited arsenal than in Team 17’s classic, though.
Unusually for a social game, it offers simultaneous online play. Most of the community appear to have never played Worms before, meaning you can assure victory for yourself by having a slight understanding of physics.
A decent implementation of online poker. Not much more to say about that really! As the reviewing cliché goes, if you like poker, you’ll like this.