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Tap To Play: A Discussion About Smartphone Games

Since the first smartphones came out, there has been a rising demand for more and more games. They’re an amazing distraction and when one of them takes off, they get massive – arguably more so than a PC or console title does. However, one thing I’d like to chat about is the recurring theme in smartphone games – About how all you need to do to play, is to wait, or to just tap the screen a million times. Whatever happened to innovation – Or are we about to see a new surge of innovative titles?

I don’t think tapping is a bad way to create potentially engaging gameplay; so long as the gameplay is actually there. One game I absolutely adored for the better part of a year was Hyper Heroes (pictured above), a game where you didn’t just mindlessly tap the screen. Indeed, there was an element of strategy behind it, a “bouncing” hero RPG. Unfortunately most of the rewards came from you paying to get an “SS” Hero, which could wipe the floor with the other heroes. This is not a particularly engaging way to add “power” into a game, which otherwise had promise.

Moving into the tap genre, if you want to call it a genre, I downloaded a title called Tap Tap Trillionaire – It’s not bad, but in all honesty, the gameplay is indeed lacking. In Tap Tap Trillionaire, you simply tap your phone as many times as you can, probably causing carpal tunnel syndrome in the process. This is standard affair in this day and age in mobile games, but I’ve managed to play a number of games which actually interesting mechanics, such as the aforementioned Hyper Heroes.

When a title comes along that dominates the mobile scene, you can bet it’s because it’s unique. One early example of a tap and wait title was Coin Dozer, which is still going pretty strong. I re-downloaded Coin Dozer not too long ago, but after less than 3 days, I had to uninstall it. The appeal of getting as much money as possible out of microtransactions has become far too normalised, which was detrimental to the state of the game. It became a running advert, not much of a game itself – Although granted, it was never a genius game to begin with. It was never meant to be!

As we are seeing more and more peripherals for VR, specifically for use with mobiles, we’re seeing a lot more innovation. Stare at an object to pick it up, use the accelerometer of the phone, implement sound and more. Naturally, when we compare the smartphone scene with the longstanding PC and console markets, you can sympathise with the developers, as it can’t be easy being the forerunners of innovation.

Tapping is not the best solution to developing an exciting game, but utilising touch screen controls is certainly a great way to go. One of my personal favourite games on mobile is Game Dev Tycoon; a title which plays equally as well on the PC. This understands how to use a touch screen interface in a clean, intuitive way. It also doesn’t require you to tap so much that your fingers feel like they’re going to fall off.

I think the problem a lot of smartphone game developers have is the use of the tools they’ve been given. I mentioned about how the titles that get big right now are basically the forerunners of innovation, but the problem with this is that it means that when one person does it, everyone follows suite. We’re seeing this en masse, as opposed to the occasional copy-cat here and there – But that’s the nature of business: Replicate what’s popular. Capitalise on success… But the video game scene is a whole different kettle of fish.

For every Flappy Bird, there’s a billion clones – Of which few can replicate the original (although in this case, that’s probably a good thing). When Pokemon Go came out to extreme applause, I spotted plenty of games on the Android market that tried to be Pokemon Go, or tried to offer hints and tricks in the form of an app. Tap Tap Trillionaire is not a bad title, but it has taught me one thing – There’s no shame in being unoriginal, but there’s certainly a lot more that should be done. Have you played any mobile titles which you think “if only there was more to this”? What do you think about the current state of innovation in smartphone gaming – and where do you think the future of mobile gaming is going? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, or over on Facebook and Twitter.

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