Tag Archives: microtransactions

Feverishly swiping away at my phone to Make It Rain

make it rain windows 8 phone game impressions gd

I am a patient man. Perhaps maybe the most patient, but that is a test that anyone claiming such a thing could easily fail. I mean, if someone sits next to me and continues to flick my nose once every three seconds for the rest of my given life, I don’t expect to last long. For the most part, when it comes to videogames, I don’t mind having to wait. Sometimes the waiting, whether it is for a certain upgrade or pivotal story-beat, can be kept to the shadows when grinding or side quests are involved, and other times, like with a lot of today’s mobile entries, such as Disney Magical Kingdoms or The Sims FreePlay, the waiting is the entire game itself.

Make It Rain: Love of Money didn’t start out being a waiter, but it eventually hit a point where progress was unobtainable except through the passing of time. I’ll tell you how I know for sure in just a bit, but I guess I’ll cover the game’s story and mechanics first. Story-wise, it’s a mix of the thoughtful, coming-of-age journey Kaitlin’s sister experiences in Gone Home and the multiple dimensions, always-a-lighthouse time-funkaroo from BioShock Infinite, with a dash of Jazzpunk‘s zany playfulness thrown in for good measure. Okay, no. Just kidding. There isn’t a lick of narrative here, just a means to get digitally rich. Perhaps you are an absent-minded app developer who accidentally created this money-making product and must now figure out the quickest way to make it big. Your adventure may vary.

The game’s theme revolves around money, greed, and corruption, and opens with a Biblical quote, every single time, to remind you of the evils of temptation and your place as a servant to a higher being:

“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

That aside, once you are playing Make It Rain, the greed takes over, and all you can do is earn money and spend money to help earn more money faster in the future so that you’ll have more money to spend on earning money. Money money money. You can do this in a few ways, with the main method being swiping the screen in the same fashion that one might swipe a wad of money from their hands if they wanted to “make it rain” on a stripper. It’s an amusing means to an end, even if it’s demeaning in nature. I often made it rain on my cats, for what it’s worth. Another way to earn money is by putting your hard-earned green stuff into things like insider trading, subprime mortgages, and the bribing of political figures. Doing this raises how much money you earn by swiping, how much you earn when not swiping or the game is off, and how much your bucket can hold before you need to empty it and start again. All of this has me wondering how much cash I’ve accrued in Fable II since last turning it on.

Make It Rain is the type of experience that can be never-ending. I decided to toss a flag and march towards it, with the end goal being to unlock every Achievement. By September 2015, I had all of them, save for three. One Achievement was for purchasing two bee-related services, of which I had one already, and the other cost a whole lot of money that seemed, given the game’s pacing, decades away. The second was for swiping 100,000 times, which I’m convinced is glitched. Lastly, the developers would love to reward you with a digital picture and 5 Gamerscore if you connected the app to your Facebook account. Well, zip ahead a whole year later to today, and I’ve crossed off two of those three and decided that “Erased Fingerprints,” the Achievement for swiping way too much, is never gonna happen.

I hope to never write about Make It Rain again–really, there’s not much more to say, and a part of me is still baffled that I played this and consider it something one plays–so let me tell you how the last year went, which was all about earning $123 KBB to purchase the Electronic Apiary. I first started out trying to both increase the size of my bucket so it could hold more cash, as well as boost how much I got per hour when not playing the game. I quickly became less interested in actively making money and preferred to let the app work its magic in the background. This proved glacier-like slow, with each increase being so minor that you never really felt you were making any ground, but so major that all your funds were depleted and you had to start from square one. I then decided to give up on trying to upgrade either and simply empty my bucket whenever it filled all the way up, which was probably every day and a half or two days. Granted, I often forgot to do this, which only prolonged the experience. This took, oh, about a year, and I’ll point you back to the very first sentence of this blog post.

It’s strange. In just the last few weeks or so, I’ve polished off a number of games that have been lingering in my backlog for a good, long while: Final Fantasy IX, Crimson Shroud, Spyro the Dragon, and now this. Also, Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, a game I’ve been tapping away at its puzzles since 2014, is creeping close to the finish line. It’s like these things happen in large, social waves, and I have to wonder if some of the games I’m playing now won’t see their special haiku rewards for still some time. Again, I really don’t mind the wait. Occasionally, it’s not ideal, but sometimes it’s all you can do. In terms of Make It Rain, money doesn’t grow on trees overnight.

Some of your dreams can come true in Disney Magic Kingdoms

GD Disney Magic Kingdoms f2p mobile game impressions

At some point, I do promise to write about Theme Park, which was not the greatest simulation game ever to be simulated, but it stands out in my mind as something special because my sister Julie and I played it together, creating less-than-stellar amusement parks and laughing at how many people we could get to hurl after going on our sick–and I do mean sick–rollercoaster designs. I also remember being extremely impressed, at the time, over the visuals, especially the 3D parts where you could go through the rides view a first-person POV. I guarantee the game doesn’t hold up one lick today, but it’s a sentimental entry in my gaming history nonetheless.

Disney Magic Kingdoms doesn’t let you do that or even really run an amusement park in a simulation fashion. You can’t adjust how much the hot dogs cost or what admission tickets go for on a weekend versus a weekday. It’s instead more about leveling up, both the rides and attractions you place on the ground, as well as the familiar characters inhabiting the park from open to close. Yes, you level up Mickey Mouse, and it is both satisfying and unnerving at the same time. Also, every time you complete a mission with a character, you collect your reward by tapping their upraised hand, giving them a digital high-five. I’m pretty okay with that, especially when it is Buzz Lightyear.

Magically, Disney Magic Kingdoms does come with a plot, as well as many small, off-to-the-side subplots. Here’s the big one: Maleficent casts an evil spell on the Kingdom, ridding it of all of its powerful magic, and it’s up to Mickey and his friends to bring everything back. A bit perfunctory, but it gets the job done, and this thing is clearly aimed at a younger generation, with its bright, colorful graphics and bouncy tunes, so it’ll never get darker than that. Basically, you’ll be trying to build specific attractions and bring in famous characters from all the popular franchises, ranging from Sleeping Beauty to Toy Story to The Incredibles. To do that, you need the right amount of currency and special items, which you collect from rides/attractions on timers and completing missions. Alas, some missions take sixty seconds to do, and others go for anywhere between six to twelve hours. Yikes.

I find that, obviously, Disney Magic Kingdoms, is best played in short bursts, with the goal of returning to it many, many hours later to see what got done and start the process all over again. I usually finish everything I need to do in under 10 minutes, and once you have checked all your rides for currency/items and given every character a quest there isn’t much else you can do except stare at your screen and wait. Might as well wait doing something else. However, let me confirm that it is a big bummer when, after waiting six hours for a quest to complete, you sometimes don’t get the item you want and have to try again. I’m sure there is a way to buy the item or complete the quest using real-life U.S. dollars, but I’m not interested in that. I’m saving my hard-earned cash-money for next month for Disney Magical World 2, which should come as no surprise to those that read my thoughts on the first game.

Oh, and I never really mentioned the whole Happiness aspect. See, a bunch of the park’s visitors are looking for things to make them happy, and that could be going on a specific ride or listening to Jessie yodel. Everyone has their kinks. Anyways, if you fill the Happiness meter up all the way, you can start a themed parade, which, for a limited time, allows rides and attractions to give off bonus magic and XP, and quests will also end with better rewards. Unfortunately, the Happiness meter drains when you aren’t playing, so I haven’t focused too hard on this area as it never feels worth the effort.

Being a free-to-play mobile game, Disney Magic Kingdoms is constantly changing. The game has gone through several updates already. One update brought in a timed event themed around The Incredibles and tapping on a bunch of evil robots invading the park. Looks like this week there’s an update that’s all about Pirates of the Caribbean. When will we get one focused on The Rescuers, hmm? There are also now chests akin to the chests from Clash Royale that you can find and open, but they are naturally on timers, and you can only open so many and open them so fast unless you are willing to spend the rarer currency of gems. No thanks. I mean, I’ll continue to open one chest at a time and hope for the best, but otherwise want nothing to do with this system.

Disney Magic Kingdoms is a more enjoyable time-killer, tap-taker than other games in this genre, but I wonder if that is mostly due to my love and appreciation of all things Disney. It really does help that the quests revolve around familiar, likeable characters, and that the carrot on the stick is unlocking more familiar, likeable characters. Plus, the game both looks and sounds amazing. They have Mickey’s “Oh boy!” and Goofy’s “Guffaw!” down perfectly, and the soundtrack features a number of memorable tunes. The characters are well animated, the environments are authentic, and you’ll find yourself whistling while you work as classic Disney themes play overhead.

Look, I’ll keep going with it, but I wonder if, just as with The Sims FreePlay, I’ll hit a point with Disney Magic Kingdoms where the grinding takes too long and becomes more of a nuisance than fun and close this park for good, only to ever see it appear again in one of those posts about creepy, neglected amusement parks overgrown with rust and decay.

RIDICULOUS MARATHON HAS CANDY, TOFFEE, SWEETS, AND CONFETTI

ridiculous marathon gd early impressions

If you have an eye for detail or are anal about words being in all capital letters when perhaps they have no reason to be, you might be wondering why this blog post about Ridiculous Marathon has such style elements enforced in its title. I assure you this is not a clickbait attempt or new thing for Grinding Down in 2016. I assure you. This stems from looking up further details about the game on Microsoft’s website and discovering that the only text provided before the “read more” link is as follows:

GET READY TO RUN A CRAZY MARATHON FILLED WITH CANDY, TOFFEE, SWEETS AND CONFETTI

Er, yeah. Settle down, copy writer. Also, even after playing Ridiculous Marathon for a bit, I can’t agree that the game is filled with these items. You’ll see a piece of candy every few feet, but only until you complete the Daily Challenge, and then you’ll never see another sliver of candy again until the next day. As for the toffee and sweets–no idea where they are. Confetti appears from time to time as you morph into a powered-up piñata, but this isn’t a game about hitting the crap out of a stuffed container often made of papier-mâché. It’s an endless runner, through and through.

I’ll say with certainty that Ridiculous Marathon is an easier and more forgiving endless runner than Temple Run 2 and Lara Croft: Relic Run–put together. There are fewer turns and obstacles to avoid, with a larger focus on jumping over construction signs and avoiding trucks carrying long wooden logs. Your move set includes jumping, moving left to right, and sliding–that’s kind of it. There’s no turning corners or running along walls to not fall in pits, but you can double tap the screen to turn into an invincible piñata that will, I believe, save you from one crash. I’ve gotten pretty far without much outside help, hitting around 150,000 points in score. With the help of some revive diamonds, I expect to hit 500,000 points rather easily.

Naturally, with this being a free-to-play endless runner, there’s microtransactions available that could help each of your runs be more successful, but only if you plop down some cash. So far, I’ve ignored all of those options and am doing just fine. You can buy single use power-ups with the gold you collect as you move through the Amazon rainforest, as well as upgrade power-ups or purchase costumes for your characters, though those are simply cosmetic in nature. There are ads, but they are easy to dismiss, though I don’t understand why I have to sign in with my Microsoft account every single time I load it up to play; other mobile games don’t ask me to do this.

There are two systems at work to keep one coming back to Ridiculous Marathon, and they are the Daily and Weekly Challenges. The Daily Challenge tasks you with collecting a number of candy as you run, which is easy enough because, just like with all the game’s power-ups, you can spot them from a distance as a beam of light shoots up and out of them. Do this for five days in a row, and you’ll unlock a mystery box, which gave me some free piñata power-ups. The Weekly Challenge wants you to collect golden palm trees, and the one I’m on is for finding 21, of which I’ve gotten nine. They show up a whole lot less, so we’ll see if I get any reward by the end of the countdown, which stands at 34 hours left. Hmm.

In the end, Ridiculous Marathon is fine. It’s not as ridiculous as one might think, nor as tiring as running an actual marathon. Well, I actually can’t speak officially on that last part. Perhaps this is a runner better suited for younger gamers or those just getting into the genre. Anyways, I expect to play it for another week or two until I’ve wrung every ounce of fun from it, and by fun I naturally mean Achievements.