Last week, Christian and I attended the Ubisoft Digital Day in Paris, sampling several of the publisher’s forthcoming mobile and downloadable titles. For some reason that made sense on the return Eurostar journey, we decided to present our findings as a dialogue. That’s what Paris will do to you.
Keith: Bonjour Christian. Let’s start with our favourite game from the event. Mine was almost certainly The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot, which is a sort of castle-building dungeon hack. You use the simple tools to construct an imposing fortress, and then fill it with traps and monsters. When you upload it to the dedicated site, other players can raid it, navigating your fiendish defences and gaining access to your treasure room. You can also create your own hero with which to impregnate the castles of other players. Both your castles and your hero can earn XP which unlocks new items; you can earn gold to buy traps and monsters to populate your dungeon, as well as to arm your hero – and this being a free-to-play game, there are two currencies: gold coins, which are earned during play, and gems, which you buy with actual cash. Christian, first, what did you think of this game and second, have I misused the word ‘impregnate’? I fear I have.
Christian: Oui, ce’tait vachement bien, as the French themselves might put it, although they’d probably spell bits of that differently. This was the star for me, too. It’s fascinating to see a studio like Ubisoft Montreal tackling free-to-play, and it seemed pretty clear they saw it as a business model rather than a genre, which is the right way to do it. This is a game that I’d probably pay for, but while the free-to-play stuff means progression’s probably going to be a bit slower, it should also guarantee a steady flood of new content to play with – even if it is always just another castle.
I refuse to answer your question about the word ‘impregnate’, but I will ask: what did you think of Nutty Fluffies? This is RedLynx’s new mobile game in which you agitate a selection of cartoon animals by taking them on a rollercoaster. I suspected some manner of Leninist allegory at work, like that story about everybody joining in to uproot the freakishly large turnip?
Keith: I refuse to answer your question about Nutty Fluffies being a Leninist allegory involving a freakishly large turnip. But this does look like a nice cute-ified spin on the physics-based gameplay of Trials Evolution. There’s a clever tactical bit at the beginning where you choose which animals you want on the next roller coaster circuit, based on their fun preferences. Cats like speed, dogs like jumping and pigs like bumps (I think this is based on actual research), so you have to analyse the features of the next ride and figure out how many of each animal you should have aboard – their enjoyment gives you points, you see.
Then, when the action begins, you just swipe the screen from left to right to speed the carriages up, and the other way to decelerate. The physics engine is completely exaggerated, so it’s quite easy to send your animal charges hurtling to their doom. It is endearingly silly – I think perhaps aimed at people who like the idea of Trials, but would prefer the concept if it were filtered through some sort of feverish hallucination. Also, the title sounds like a delicious breakfast cereal – which is more than can be said for Call of Juarez: Gunslinger…
Christian: Cats do not like Speed, and that is an extremely dangerous attitude. I’m not going to answer your question about Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, because it wasn’t actually a question, and if the game turns out to be alright then, well, that will be a nice surprise for everyone, won’t it? It did actually look quite good – a huge improvement on The Cartel, and a decent rootin’-tootin’ excuse to use the phrase “rootin’-tootin’”. Needs must when the devil drives, eh?
I’ve just realised I didn’t mention Rayman: Jungle Run, so I’m doing that now. iOS and Android, a clever, very pretty spin on the auto-runner, and it’s pretty much my favourite game of the show. What did you make of it?
Keith: Wait, so which game was your favourite of the show, Christian, because you seem to have decided on both Mighty Epic Loot Quest and Rayman Jungle Run.
Anyway. Rayman Jungle Run is essentially a touch-based take on Rayman Origins. He legs it through all those gorgeous Sylvan landscapes, grabbing Lums and avoiding enemies and tentacles. A single touch makes him jump, and holding your finger on the screen helps him do that helicopter glide thing with his ears. Deft timing allows you to wall jump too. I thought this was so beautifully crafted that you almost forget its a glorified endless runner; it begins to feel like a traditional platformer. I certainly liked it more than Prince of Persia Classic – an update of the first game in the acrobatic platforming series for iOS and Android that suffers from the age old lack of responsiveness. We forgave it back then because we were easily impressed by animation cycles of more than two frames, but can we forgive it now, Christian? Can we?
Christian: I’m not sure I can forgive you for using the word ‘Sylvan’. The Prince hasn’t aged very well, I suspect, but it’s still nice to see him knocking about. With that, we’ve pretty much covered all of the games that really stood out for me, at least – except for Origin of Pain, the new Trials expansion that offers new tracks and items like cargo planes for the level editor. Oh! And Might & Magic: Duel of Champions, which is basically Magic: The Gathering with a focus on spatial tactics. I think I’m done. You?
Keith: What’s wrong with ‘sylvan’?