Disco bees is cool variation on match 3 in which the grid is built like a hive. The game is available for both iOS and Android and you can download it here.
Game play and first impression
The bees theme with in this game is executed well and makes the first game experience a lot of fun. The levels in each world are presented as a hive to the user and the levels also look like hives. The game has a disco style background music which is quite catchy and the bees dance upon level completion. It sounds weird but it somehow works. The hive shape also means that users can swipe 6 ways instead of 4 in other variations of the game. Other than that, the some core principals of match 3 apply. You can match 3, 4 or 5 in a straight line or matching an L shape where the any match except for the basic gives you a special item, in this case the items are called “ninja bee”, “boxer bee” and “hipbee”. The end result of combining the adorable bees, the disco tunes and the match 3 game play is highly addictive. Somehow the pattern matching action followed by a colorful chain reaction always sucks me into games – I might have to delete this game as it’s hard to stop otherwise.
Game progression, level design and achievement
Disco bees leverages worlds and levels to give the user a sense of progress. There are 15 worlds and each one has 7 or 19 levels. It’s basically the same method used by King.com with Candy Crush Saga. Based on my experience, the challenge was not high enough to get stuck. I breezed through the first 22 levels or so without hitting a real challenge. The difficulty could be picking up later on but I think 3-5 of the earlier levels could be made harder by adding a timer or increasing the winning threshold. Another thing that can improve the challenge is adding gates between levels. Gates that are hard to pass can help with getting users to take some social action like gifting and sharing as well as to buy boosters in order to pass through.
Leaderboards and competition
The game leaderboard is implemented as a separate screen accessible from the main menu. This could be improved by integrating the friends’ level progress into the level maps. Every level also gives the users a separate score and stars to indicate how well they were doing. Users can see their friends and compete on each level individually. This is important in case users get stuck on a level but my experience was that you just don’t get stuck.
Boosters, upgrades and lives
Disco bees include quite a few items that users can buy:
- More Lives
- More moves
- Starting boosts – ‘hand’ will include a few special bees
- Ninja bee
- Boxer bee
- UFO – allows users to remove one bee from the level
All of these items are basically ‘cheats’. Since there is no character in the game, the goods are sold to the user and not to his avatar so selling cheats is the only way to go. However, before you can sell cheats, the game needs to be challenging enough to make users want to cheat. In this case, I didn’t feel there is enough reason to cheat as the levels weren’t hard enough.
Promoting virtual goods
Virtual goods are being promoted in 3 main methods. First off, there is a try-buy model for some of the items. The user is allowed to use the “5 more moves” cheat for 2-3 times before he needs to start paying for it and the same goes for the UFO cheat. This is a highly effective model that makes users aware of the boosters available to them. In addition, virtual goods are being offered to the user in the natural flow of the game at the right context and time. The starting boosts are presented at the beginning of every level and when users run out of lives or moves the right booster is being featured to them. Finally, there are some limited time discount packages offered from time to time to push users to buy.
Lives economy vs. energy economy
Every time users fail to complete a level one life point is been taken away from them. This is a variation on energy economy where users consume energy for a successful attempt as well as for failed attempts. In both cases there is time based replenishment as well as an option to pay to skip the wait. The main difference is that lives economy requires users to fail in order to be effective. In a game where there is much more success than failure, it doesn’t really impact the natural course of things. In 4-5 playing sessions, I played long enough to get bored or to have something else to do. When implemented correctly, lives economy and energy economy will cut users short before they get bored so they have craving for more.