Mobile games are an odd market to try and develop for.They have to work on a lot of devices, some of which don’t have a lot of processing power. Controls and screen size are limited. There’s lot of things to work around. Often times simplicity is the key. A good concept that doesn’t rely on high end graphics or complicated systems can be successful in the mobile market where it never could on PC or console.
Lapse: A Forgotten Future is a simple concept taken in interesting directions. Here’s a quick excerpt from it’s Play Store page:
“Lead an entire nation to salvation – or destruction – in a post-apocalyptic world set beyond the year 2075. With a simple swipe of your finger, left or right, you’ll be able to decide of this Nation’s destiny, taking hard decisions about different quests and problems, that will be brought to your presidential attention. Be careful though: leading has never been easy and it will be even more challenging in a similar world.”
The swipe left or right is fairly easy and is the only real interactive mechanic. It’s effectively governance by Tinder. You have 4 meters to manage. I havent seen actual names for them but they are beat described (to me) as: pollution, citizen happiness, military strength, and money. Each decision you make will influence these for good or bad. The game does tell you which ones will be affected, but not how. While you can easily guess most outcomes the game does throw a few curveballs. The other metric the game tracks is how long you have been in power.
The simplicity of the mechanics allow for the games real strength: it’s story and it’s delivery. You are The President and it’s up to you to lead your people. You have to balance all aspects of your nation while slowly unraveling a mystery of time travel and intrigue. Each character you interact with through their cards has agendas and plot lines. Some decisions open up new possiblities and occasionally add new sets of cards to your “deck” that each game pulls from.
Something I didn’t mention yet is how you win or lose. When any of the four meters bottom out then you lose that round.However, the game continues to progress. Decisions you make have a sort of ripple effect on future rounds. New cards persist between rounds as well as how much time has passed. As you hit certain dates you will trigger new events. Characters will also act differently depending on decisions you made in previous rounds as well.
There aren’t any major flaws in the game but after a while some of the decisions available from the start of the game can feel a little repetitive. Some of the choices that unlock additional plot paths feel counterintuitive and may lead to someone being stuck unless they experiment or are steered to a choice by the situation. Luck also plays a factor with some rounds feeling snake bitten from the start while others feel almost too easy. If you’ve ever played a rogue-like you have probably experienced this before. However, all of these felt more like inherent issues with the semi randomized gameplay rather than a short coming of the developer. Even a bad round will add something to what you have done and you are always moving forward so it’s never a major detractor from the experience.
Overall, Lapse is a solid game with a simple core mechanic and no pressures for how long you play. It works as well over a quick five minutes on break as it does for half an hour in your free time. Without spoiling anything, the story isn’t groundbreaking but it is solid. There were a few twists I didn’t see coming at all. writing is well done without being over done. The artwork is minimalist and fits the tone of the game very well. The same can be said for the sound design. The game does contain in app purchases thought I havent felt any pressure to purchase any. The game is free to download and doesn’t require any money to complete. Short video ads occurr between rounds fairly rarely. Occasionally you are prompted to watch a 30 second ad during a round but are given a reward of some kind if you accept. You can also spend $1.29 to remove them completely.
Lapse: A Forgotten Future is currently available for Android in the Google Play Store.
Killing Time is a review series for mobile games that Sour Pineapple made up as an excuse to play on his phone when he should be working. It keeps him entertained and annoys Sir Crunchee. This series will be posted when Pineapple has something good to talk about.