Saturday is starting to be my favorite day of the week – it’s game review day. This week’s review is for a game called Drop Limbs.
Core gameplay is much fun
Drop limbs art is a retro 8 Bit but it doesn’t take away much of the fun. The goal of the game is to dodge the knives and other deadly obstacles while your character falls slowly through what appears to be thick air that slows him down a bit. There are smaller daggers, bigger swords, butcher knives and rotating blades that can also move from side to side. Quite a deadly environment to make the game challenging enough. Luckily, your character will be happy to continue play without hands and legs but once enough limbs are cut, he will die and you will have to start over.
Lives economy done right (almost)
The game designer correctly realized the potential of implementing lives in the game to prevent continuos gameplay. The player starts off with 5 lives and every time the character dies, one life is consumed. To get more lives, users have to wait for 3 minutes for every life point or invite friends to earn lives. Here is a quick comparison between drop limbs and other games in the industry:
- Drop limbs gives 5 lives while the standard is 5-10.
- The game gives one life point for 3 minutes of waiting while other games make you wait for 7-10 minutes
- The gameplay session here is shorter compared to most other games
- Full cycle in drop limbs is about 1-1.5 minutes of gameplay and 15 minutes of waiting compared to about 5-10 minutes of gameplay and 45-60 minutes of waiting in most other games that use lives or energy
I would recommend changing the number of lives to 10 to allow longer cycles.
Earning and buying lives
For users who are eager to play more, the game suggests two ways to earn lives:
- Buy lives with cash
- Invite friends to get more lives
This is a variation on the mechanism King implemented with Candy Crush Saga. However, unlike King, the developer here selects to sell unlimited lives rather than selling them one by one. This basically limits the amount of revenue that the game can generate to $5 per paying users. With a conversion rate of 1%, this means $0.05 LTV at most which is rather low. Incentivizing users to invite friends is the most simple way to leverage social networks but feels a bit aggressive compared to gifting lives to other users.
Achievements and Leaderboards
Drop limbs is a repeated scene type of game which means the user starts from the same point in every try. The sense of achievement in this game comes mainly from two things. Beating your own personal score and beating your friends. The developer uses facebook leaderboards to create a sense of competition among buddies. Leaderboards are a nice add on but mobile games must engaging for a single player if you want to have enough users to compete and Drop Limbs has room for improvement here. The main problem with the “beat your own best score” model is that your users often will find it very hard to improve their personal bests after a few days. My best score in Drop limbs was 17 after a few days and then stuck there for the reminder of the first month. Without any other achievements implemented in the game it was hard to stay engaged.
The way to overcome this problem is to create alternating achievement paths and more ways in which users can excel and accomplish goals. Here are some easy to implement suggestions for drop limbs:
- Count the number of obstacles passed by type: knives, swords, butcher knives and rotating knives. Allow the user to break those records.
- Compare personal bests based on weekly and monthly scores. For example, “Best score of the week”.
- Add humoristic achievements for spectacular accidents. Check out Hill Climb Racing for reference.
Give users an easy way to buy when they run out
Two more improvements on the navigation and usability side:
- When the session ends, the session summary screen doesn’t give the users an easy way to do the most desired action which is to play again. Instead, the user has to click “Back” and then “Start” which is not very intuitive or highlighted in any way.
- Clicking “Start” would normally initiate a new session but whenever the user runs out of lives it stops working. A better action would have been to pop up a message asking the user to buy more lives.
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