Biotix is a pretty cool game. It’s available for both Android and iOS and you can download it below:
It’s a hostile environment – think fast
The game is played in a two dimensional space where you are controlling a swarm of virions – small dots that normally reside inside circular host cells. As you can imagine your goal is to make sure your swarm multiplies and dominates as many host hosts as possible. Sounds pretty easy so far. However, there are other swarms out there and they are trying to do the same thing. The game starts where your swarm is in one host while the opponent swarm is in another host and there are 10-20 neutral hosts that each one of you can invade. Your virions are constantly multiplying as long as they are inside hosts and the way to attack other hosts is by swiping from an occupied host to another host.
Multi player with a great single player mode
With the confrontational setting that this game has to offer, I can see it becoming quite interesting as a multiplayer game. However, you have to start with something to attract players in and so every mobile games has to be fun even when playing it alone. Biotix succeeds at this mission and the game is fun and challenging enough when playing against artificial intelligence. I haven’t played against others so the rest of the review will focus only on the single player mode.
Game progression under the microscope
The game has 3 worlds with 10 levels in each. That gives players a basic sense of progress usually serves as a good start. There is also tight integration with Game Center’s Achievement module (and probably Google’s equivalent in the Android version). There is a big problem though – the achievements feel unrelated to the game. Winning the “Pack” badge when I was able to spawn 5,000 virions meant nothing to me as a user. There are a few ways for Biotix to improve on the achievement front.
Giving users a reason to play the same level over
Many games that relay on levels and worlds face a big problem as users might get stuck on a level. One way to avoid that is to create a reason for players to play a level over. In Biotix, I can imagine two ways to do that:
- Mark 3 of the neutral hosts with stars. Users can complete the level by beating the competition but to win 3 stars, they need to also be the first ones to reach the neutral hosts first.
- Add a time element that allows users to play against their personal best – this works well in levels with a relatively simple design.
This brings another issue – the scores that users get upon level completion means nothing! I got 834 points on level one but I don’t see that anywhere else. This needs to be improved:
- Make it clearer why points are given by showing the score inside the level
- At the beginning of a level – mention the personal best so far and friends score for that level
- In the level progress screen – show stars or best score for completed levels
Creating another play mode
Another way to give users a sense of progress when they are getting stuck on a level is to create an alternative play mode. I can envision a less hostile scenario in which the main goal is to reach the highest number of controlled hosts in 60 seconds. This will also give users a way to accumulate coins and upgrade so they can keep making progress on the main path
Give users some tough choices in the store
The store of the game is accessible from most screens and offers relevant and compelling upgrades. Users can improve their attack, defense, reproduction, speed and injection. The value is very clear on all of these. However, the ingame shopping can be much more engaging by creating touch choices for the users. Buying “attack” upgrade has two problems: it’s a no-brainer and it has no flavor. Users go into the store and just tap on a few upgrades until they have no coins left.
Create upgrades based economy
Here is how to improve this:
- Create a store narrative where the store is a lab (we are dealing with virions here)
- At the beginning of each world, users have to select or buy a certain type of virions out of a selection of 3-5 which differ from the others on their skill set: some have better attack while others have more speed
- Skills can be improved but not directly. Instead of buying +5 attack, users have to choose between upgrade options like:
- DNA string that gives them +6 attack and -1 defense
- Some lab magic that gives +2 defense and +1 reproduction
- Lighting that gives +3 speed
- Temperature that gives +1 speed, +1 attack and +1 defense
The goal of the change is to put players in a situation where they have to think about their options. They would later spend time thinking about what would have happened had a made another selection. They will have to figure out if their play style means that they should go for speed and attack or defense and reproduction and then figure out which upgrades and virion type fits that play style more. These thoughts create emotional investment and increase retention.
Another benefit of this store narrative is that it can easily justify waits and the sell of accelerators. Once users already upgraded their virion breed a few times the next upgrade requires some special lab equipment that needs to be shipped. Bummer – you have to wait 30 minutes or you can pay $0.99.