The last couple of months have seen a lot less time spent mobile gaming, mostly due to r/incremental_games temporarily shutting down. Despite that, I’ve still had a great time with a few games, with only one of them being an incremental / idle game this time!
The games are in descending order of “fun”, and might contain mild spoilers:
I have never hated and loved a game as much as Slitherlink. It is the most obnoxiously hard yet rewarding puzzle game I have ever played, and if I had to take a single game onto a desert island for the rest of my life it just might be this.
Slitherlink is extremely simple to learn, yet impossible to master. All you need to do is form a single unbroken “loop” throughout a game map made up if squares / hexagons / other shapes, with some squares having a specific number of edges filled in.
These simple rules, explained through an excellent tutorial, will leave you finishing the first level and wondering how this can be challenging. Then you try an actual puzzle and… your brain melts. I’ve spent hundreds of hours playing Minesweeper, Loops of Zen, and Nonogram games, and Slitherlink is a combination of the best elements of all of these.
There are 6 free choices of board style: Honeycomb, Snowflakes, Squares, Cairo, Kites, and Diagonals. Each of these has the same “create a loop” idea, but the difference in shapes requires completely different strategies for each. Whilst the “Easy” levels are generally fairly solvable, even “Normal” will mean repeatedly spending multiple minutes staring at the board before making a move! Considering the “Small” size will still take a few minutes, the ability of 3 larger board sizes is only for those who truly want to give themselves a headache!
Personally I can only complete small size & normal difficulty, or medium size & easy difficulty on most board styles. Eventually I’m intending to work my way up to huge size & hard difficulty, but the skill required for that is far beyond my current ability!
In terms of app design, it reminds me of Wordiest (which is no longer on the store), with an extremely simple yet functional interface. It also has a similarly abstracted “multiplayer”, where the average solve time is shown once you complete a puzzle. I’m yet to beat this average, which should indicate my limited ability so far! It’s also worth pointing out that you can pinch to zoom / pan, absolutely essential for larger maps and helpful even on the smaller ones.
Finally, there’s also a good level of customisation, letting you fine tune the puzzle solving to avoid time spent fighting the interface so you can focus on the puzzle itself. The default settings were fine for me (besides enabling dark mode), but I might give them all a closer link when I’m more aware of what works for me.
In summary, Slitherlink will make you feel like an absolute idiot for minutes at a time, as you stare at a supposedly “easy” puzzle that is clearly defeating you. However, when you finally logically deduce the line that can be filled in? You’ll feel like an absolute genius, and the intellectual dopamine rush is unrivalled.
There’s none! It’s free, ad-free, and you can’t donate money even if you wanted to!
The dev (Ejelta) has made no other games besides a tech demo from over a decade ago, and their website suggests mobile development is very much a hobby project.
After speaking to the dev, it turns out there are small payments to unlock each grid, with 20 completions in each provided for free. Since I was trying the larger / harder puzzles, I was nowhere near the limit! The unlocks are £0.99 for the full base game (4 types of board), then £0.99 for one additional board type. It’s great value in my opinion, I wish there were a few more board types to buy honestly.
It’s very hard to give tips for Slitherlink, since every board type plays quite differently. However, there are a few common threads:
- As the tutorial suggests, learning patterns is extremely powerful. Once you’ve solved a scenario once, recognising it the next time it comes out will save you minutes.
- Don’t gamble. Just like Minesweeper, only draw a line if you are certain, or it might ruin your whole game!
- There is a checkpoint system, so you can “guess” if stuck between two options. However, I personally don’t use this, since the mistake might not be realised until many minutes of later, and the time waste is too painful.
- Each puzzle has a single solution. If a tile seems to have multiple solutions, you need to solve something else first.
|Gameplay (Snowflake layout, Small size, Normal difficulty)||Level Select||Settings|
Of course, every Android game roundup has to include an incremental game! Cell: Idle Factory is a nice complex one, that reminds me a lot of Idle Research in terms of layering complexity over time.
The overall structure of the game is the classic “create
A which generates
B which generates
C which generates
D and so on”. In this instance, you are creating generators that create other tiers of generator, and… there are somehow spaceships involved.
The elephant in the room is the game’s interfaces. During my first few hours I regularly got “lost” and struggled to find the specific screen I was after. Whilst I generally found my target eventually, the inconsistent navigation could be a little frustrating. With all the purchasable upgrades spread throughout different screens, you’ll likely spend most of your time just checking what can be afforded.
The game is definitely more idle than most, with the only saving grace being an “Arcade” unlocked after a couple of hours. This allows a short game of Snake / Pong every 10 minutes to earn extra currency, hopefully new games get added to make this feature more varied.
Whilst I did compare the game to Idle Research early, the progression speed is noticeably slower. Due to a purchase I made, I had all cell (main resource) generation quadrupled. Despite this, there’s often be quite a lengthy wait before I could buy anything with a tangible impact. This, combined with the game’s incentives to leave the game open for long periods of time (chests that can be claimed every X minutes), result in a game that will end up being 10 seconds of actual interaction every few minutes.
In terms of community, the game seems to be growing extremely quickly. The Discord has almost 10k members, although I haven’t joined so that I can discover game elements myself. As with other complex games that have layers of prestige and extremely deep strategy, there is a risk that reading the “optimal” route can somewhat ruin the gameplay experience.
The playerbase seems very dedicated, as indicated by 10k members on the Discord server with only 36k accounts on the leaderboards. This means nearly 1/3 of all users are invested enough to join the Discord! Additionally, on the in-game leaderboard my rank doesn’t improve much, suggesting there are hundreds of other players playing just as actively!
I’m pretty sure the game gets extremely deep later on, with massive areas of the game still clearly locked for me. On my 4th day of playing, with ~7 hours of active gameplay, I’m definitely still hooked to the progression system. However, the honeymoon period is starting to wear off, and unless some new major content unlocks with the next prestige or two I might stop leaving the game open and just do daily check-ins.
Finally, a very minor complaint. Even whilst muted, the game seems to output some sort of sound, as it “traps” my headphones from automatically switching to another device! This is quite inconvenient for a game that encourages leaving it open for long periods of time, and it will sometimes take audio focus away from my laptop.
The monetisation is unfortunately almost required. I purchased the “Starter pack”, as it was a ~$5 purchase that removed all adverts, doubled all cell earnings, and provided some diamonds (used for the most powerful upgrades).
With this pack purchased, chests can be opened without watching an advert, and the 2x advert bonus can be applied permanently. Considering how essential both of these feel for reasonable progression, players who haven’t purchased the pack are probably going to have a pretty rough time. The other packs seem completely unreasonably priced, so I doubt I’ll make any additional purchases!
- The Pong game is weirdly easy. The other player seems to move at random, so if you get stuck in a rally it might be best to intentionally lose a life and get some easy points when it misses the next few first hits.
- The Snake game is not fair, and will spawn obstacles right in front of you. Oops!
- Don’t “prestige” too early, I did and I think it slowed my progression down noticeably.
- Read descriptions carefully, you’ll quite often have a choice between two ship upgrades, and one will be significantly more useful.
- When you unlock automation, you probably want to have it turned off. Otherwise, you’ll automatically spend all your money on low level stuff, an inefficient usage.
- Make sure to check your “Player Menu” (in the bottom right tab) for any achievement rewards you can claim.
- The Discord undoubtedly has lots more tips, I’m intentionally avoiding it for now.
- There are a few hundred free gems available from the settings page, and viewing the loop modifications advanced tips.
|Ship||Loop Mod Tree||Automation|
#3: Lone Tower
Lone Tower is essentially a (single) tower defense roguelite. Each run you’ll upgrade your tower against waves of enemies, and try to survive as long as possible. Simple!
Personally I found myself not playing this as much as I’d like due to the full attention required during gameplay. Game speed is an upgradeable value, putting this higher earns coins faster but also increases risk. By the time it is at 2.5x game speed, the damage spikes from enemies is hard to counteract in time, and you’ll often see your health go from full to empty in seconds.
There’s quite a bit of strategy involved in the upgrades, with a constant balancing of risk, reward, premium currency earning, etc. For example, whilst you can upgrade your coins per day or per kill, it might be wiser to upgrade the chance to steal life, or even overall health. Finding a good balance is pretty much trial and error, and depends on your play style.
I generally prioritised “Lifesteal Amount / Chance” and “Attack Range / Speed”. I found the low % chances of “Free Upgrade” and “Supply Drop” not worth the high costs, and generally ignored them. Similarly, “Defense” and “Multishot Chance” didn’t seem a good use of money during the early game.
Weirdly, the pause / item buttons didn’t seem to… work properly for me. Sometimes they just didn’t respond, and were pretty much unusable during gameplay. Due to this inability to reliably pause, I ended up completing runs in single sessions to play it safe.
Overall, Lone Tower is a simple game good for medium-high attention 2-3 minute game sessions, but perhaps relies a bit too heavily on the roguelite elements. Purchasing permanent upgrades is absolutely required to progress in the game, with the first few runs making almost negligible progress. A bit of additional complexity is added via quests and gameplay-affecting cards, but the core loop is pretty simple.
There’s quite a few opportunities to watch ads for small boosts, and as far I can tell this is the only monetisation. They’re all very optional, and I don’t think I watched any adverts throughout my 7-8 hours of gameplay.
I didn’t find any in-app purchases, which is perhaps a shame as I’d have liked to pay a little to double gem or coin earnings.
- I found the “Shockwave”, “Magic Orb”, and “Flying Axes” cards best, all of them helping to provide general passive damage increase.
- Keep an eye on the ever-increasing enemy health (number next to skull), and make sure your damage is above this. If it drops below, your run will end quickly!
- Crops are great! The easy gold from them is super helpful, I recommend using them whenever possible.
- Sometimes random events will happen, and a dialog will ask if you want to help an old man or similar. This seems to give positive results around 80% of the time, so accepting the popup is probably a good decision.
- There is a Discord server with a quite active community.
|Main Menu||Gameplay||Permanent Upgrades|
3 games, 3 different genres! Definitely a first, although we’ll see how long it lasts with the incremental games subreddit opening back up the day this post was written. Whilst they are ultimately a waste of time, I can’t resist the dopamine mini-hits from a good incremental game.
I strongly suspect I’ll be sticking with Slitherlink for a while, maybe even multiple years as with Wordiest and various Nonogram games. I wish there was some sort of structured campaign, or a way to “complete” the game, but perhaps I’ll have to find my own definition of success.
See you in a couple of months!