Held Back by the Platform: Shadowgun and Let’s Golf 3

Shiny and new describe my new Samsung Galaxy S III, a real beauty and certainly a workhorse post-HTC Incredible. I can remember two years ago when that Incredible found its way into my hands what a jumbled mess the Android marketplace was. Emulated games or porn-ish apps were some of the top sellers, sitting behind Angry Birds. The kids probably loved it.

Now, the marketplace is called Google Play, and while iffy apps remain, there’s some sense of control by Google. What was exciting wasn’t necessarily the rebranding so much as it was the chance to play some superior software on my refreshed hardware. I couldn’t have been more disappointed.

These problems are not exclusive to the Android market. It’s certainly part of Apple’s digital storefront too, but there are two specific games that illustrate the issue with mobile gaming.

Shadowgun is a stunning third-person shooter, taking a cue (or two) from Gears of War. What it illustrates is a desire to break free from the platform that hosts it. Simply put, there needs to be something in place -right now in fact- that can address the control problems of touch screens. It’s repetitious in a review to blabber on about how a stable, competent shooter is butchered by controls, but that’s the case. Attachments and devices are out to address the issue, but they’re scattered in a way that resembles the early Android store. Consistency is king, and it’s missing.

Touch screen games have their place. No one will argue the staggering success of Angry Birds or the inherent charms of something made by simple strategist developer Kairosoft (Game Dev Story). But, there’s a clear desire amongst the development community to compete amongst the giants, and that can happen, yet only if someone solves the control problem.

Then, you have free-to-play. Oh dear. Let’s Golf 2 by Gameloft was one of my favorites on the Incredible. I paid $6 for 30+ hours of Hots Shots Golf knock-off superiority. Let’s Golf 3? Not so much.

There’s nothing wrong with free-t0-play a model, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the player willing to grind to earn his keep. In the case of Let’s Golf 3, you can play five holes of golf per day. That’s it. After one hole, the game barrages the player with endless sub-menus, all hosting something that can be purchased for real money, some for reasons that weren’t even clear. More time is spent navigating these menus than actually playing, and what’s left is a shell of a game. Charge me $6 for a premium experience and call it a day.

I keep finding games I want to play on the market, and then read a series of user reviews that lambast the controls, the broken business model, or glitching caused by a specific device (that’s another editorial all together). That’s when I close the browser and give up in frustration, moving back to safety net run by Kairosoft.