Have you ever found yourself bombarded with mobile ads? Better yet, have you ever been watching a YouTube video, when suddenly it’s interrupted by a promotional announcement for some rinky-dink mobile game they were paid to play? Well, as you know, recAPP has always aimed to dispel the unfortunate notoriety that encompasses mobile games. However, these paid sponsorships and incessant advertisements sure throw a monkey wrench into my plans. So this month, I thought, “Why not take these games head-on and do the impossible? What if I play them without getting paid to do so?” There’s no way these games have been touched before without some funny money on the side, right? Who knows? Maybe they’re actually good and people have been missing out all these years! Isn’t that what recAPP is all about anyway? Let’s get to it!
Sniper 3D may very well be the longest vendetta I’ve had in terms of mobile game advertisements. I can recall seeing ads for this game, or at least games that look like this game since I got my first iPod Touch like a decade ago. Let’s just say, as long as mobile ads have been around, Sniper 3D has been jammed down our throats. The most depressing thing about this fact is that Sniper 3D – and games like it – don’t bring much innovation to the table. They don’t put their money where their mouth is, they just deliver a mobile version of that flash game you used to play in the Computer Club. Or was that just me? Anyway, the premise of Sniper 3D is to accept a variety of hitman contracts and take out your targets in the fastest way possible. As the levels progress, these contracts increase in difficulty. For example, some may have you shooting moving targets or assassinating gang members in a certain order so as not to raise suspicion. The gameplay is enjoyable, yes, but you can only aim, zoom, and fire so many times before you become self-aware of the redundancy. Furthermore, attempting contracts costs energy, which refills over time, making this one of those idle-esque games if you’re not a perfect shot. If waiting around to earn energy to spend on identical contracts, to earn money to upgrade guns, to play out a slightly harder contract, rinse, and repeat doesn’t sound like your cup of tea? Maybe leave this one alone.
Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire
I’ve thrown a bit of a curveball into our typical formula here. After being bombarded with Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire ads for months now – most of them being pop-up ads I’d view to get free rewards in other games – I decided to give it a try. At first glance, this feels like a basic city-builder. Noctis issues text prompts that instruct you to place new buildings in the city, which will then help your people thrive, or strengthen your empire or something? Okay, I need to be honest here: I barely got past the tutorial in this game. City-builders simply don’t work in a vertical format, the wait times were too long, and my god the screen is so cluttered! Just look at it! There are so many different boxes to choose, things to read (which is near impossible with the text size being so damn small), and objects to look at. I felt like I’d already built a thriving city and I hadn’t even placed two buildings! Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire may be worthwhile for fans of the console title, but having never played that either, there simply wasn’t anything here for me. So I found a better city-builder!
Rise of Kingdoms
When it comes to standard city-building, Rise of Kingdoms knows where it’s at. I first heard of this game through mobile ads, and they always drew my attention for including a character that looks a lot like Ezio. Yeah, you’re thinking of the right game. Surprisingly, though, Rise of Kingdoms is a genuinely enjoyable city-builder and I highly recommend it for fans of the genre. Right off the bat, it must be commended that nearly the entire game is fully-voiced. With the exception of Joan of Arc (I chose France as my empire), every side character has audible dialogue, including the tutorial prompts. It’s very user-friendly and the cartoonish art style gives off a welcoming vibe. On top of all this, the gameplay is really straightforward. Everything is explained in layman’s terms, but that doesn’t make the game feel any less demanding or dumbed-down. Players are tasked with creating barracks, farms, and training facilities to establish a formidable empire. Once you have a good army under your belt, you can choose commanders – like the aforementioned Joan of Arc – to lead armies outside the walls to fend off attackers. Helping adjacent communities will earn their trust, and further strengthen your empire. Scouts can be sent to discover new land, and injured villagers must have their wounds tended to. Rise of Kingdoms has a solid amount of depth to it, while all the while maintaining a casual feel to its skill. Definitely check this one out – over Final Fantasy XV – if you’re looking to get into the genre.
Upon thinking up this month’s brilliant topic, I mentioned my genius to my family. Without skipping a beat, my sister said, “Oh, you mean like Best Fiends?” I figured she knew the most prominent “paid to play this mobile game” adverts – being a teenager on the cutting edge of social media – so here we are! Best Fiends falls into a category I don’t quite know how to label. Though it looks like a match-3 puzzle game at first glance, the gameplay relies more on connecting as many blocks as possible with one swipe. I believe this is also the style of gameplay for titles like Puzzle & Dragons and Disney Emoji Blitz. So… that category. I found Best Fiends to be extremely vibrant and eye-catching, delivering a delightful edge to its rather redundant gameplay. I must say, I really wouldn’t have minded being paid to play this game. It’s a fairly solid puzzle game that any mom could easily fall headfirst into. Level progression is substantial within the first 20 levels alone, offering new elements like bombs and ice blocks, as well as new characters that can be upgraded and evolved like Pokémon. These characters get stronger to take down larger enemies on the top half of the screen, a metagame that plays out through puzzle-solving below. Best Fiends is colorful and engaging, and with a hefty amount of goals, levels, and timed events, this one will keep you entertained for quite some time.
Raid: Shadow Legends
There’s not a person alive with a smartphone that hasn’t heard of Raid: Shadow Legends. Even if you’re not a “mobile gamer,” per se, you’ve most certainly seen ads for this one on Snapchat and every other social media. I don’t understand how this game got so popular – if people even play it as much as it’s advertised – but somehow it has fought its way to the forefront of mobile gaming. I’ve also seen some YouTubers playing it for money, so I know I’m not the first person to actually touch this game. All that aside, however, I must say Raid: Shadow Legends is not a bad game by any means. There is a smart RPG here, which is hard to say about most mobile attempts at the genre. After choosing your first “champion” following the tutorial, you open a lovely loot box to unlock a second one, and thus your journey begins! Missions play out as turn-based battles in multiple rounds. The first chapter, if you will, includes battles with three rounds, each one getting a bit harder than the last. Enemies respond to different attacks depending on their traits and vulnerabilities, and each champion has their own set of skills ranging from buffs for your party to elemental damage inflicted on all enemies. While the combat system may seem simple at first, later battles require some skill and fortitude. Luckily, stronger armor can be equipped and upgraded, making this RPG feel even more robust and worthwhile. For all the flack Raid deservedly receives – thanks to its incessant advertising – it can’t be denied there’s a lot on offer here for hardcore fantasy lovers.
I never would’ve imagined this month would lead me to uncover one of the best mobile games I have ever played. Especially since this was supposed to be a jokey list of over-publicized bad games. Strangely, none of them have been too terrible, and now our final pick, Brawl Stars, is actually brilliant. I remember first hearing about this game at the movie theater, of all places before a film began. Aww, remember movie theaters? Anyway, I avoided this game ever since its release for that reason alone, despite its constant prevalence at the top of the App Store charts and the studio’s award-winning reputation (see Clash of Clans, Boom Beach). In a twisted stroke of luck, I have now given Brawl Stars the chance it deserves, and it is genuinely one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had on a mobile platform. The game may seem odd with its slow gameplay and top-down format, but I was blown away by the sheer joy it delivered with every round. Beginning with Gem Rush (and more modes being unlocked as you play along), players are pitted against each other in a three-on-three battle for supremacy in the form of collecting gems. The gameplay is twin-stick, but extremely strategic, with slow movement speeds and various attack styles shaking up the intensity. You’d be surprised just how frantic a game can feel with such a sluggish pace. Brawl Stars is all about working together with on-the-fly cooperation and a lack of communication under pressure. This game is really hard to describe in such a short format as recAPP, but I highly recommend you give it a shot. It’s vibrant, it’s full of life and humor, and it feels rewarding in short bursts, every time you pick it up. Brawl Stars has made me a believer in Supercell’s genius.
Six mobile ads tested, and five of them are actually pretty good! I call that a success, and most of all, I call it me eating my words. Perhaps I owe an apology to the studios behind these games that have spent so much on promotional materials – that have subsequently been shoved down our throats. Maybe the problem isn’t the games, but the nonstop “Hey! I’m here! Try me!” that turns people off while they’re trying to go about their day. The lesson to be learned here is that the mobile market truly is a flash in the pan. You’ve seen – for a year and a half now – that great mobile games are out there, both free and paid, hidden in every nook and cranny. There truly is no rhyme or reason to it.
What I’m saying is, the main thing paid promotion will do for mobile games is sustain its “household name” longevity, at the cost of being put down for overwhelming advertisements – which, to be honest, don’t always reflect the proper gameplay (never forget Ezio). That being said, these games don’t have to have bad reputations. If your game is good, people will find it! People will praise it! These games can make it on their own without paying an “influencer” to scream at a camera over it. Sadly, this is the way the world works these days, and who am I kidding? If someone paid me to write about their app, I’d probably consider saying yes, too. But that’s not what recAPP is all about. You’ll always find the hardest-hitting mobile journalism here. I fight on the frontlines of mobile gaming for you, and I always will. We’ll be back next month with some more fun. See ya!