As you will all be no doubt aware of at this point, September 22nd will not only be notable for the second official airing of Twentica but it will also see the release of the Red Dwarf XI mobile game on iOS and Android. Those with long memories will know that anticipation for a proper, official Red Dwarf game pre-dates even that for a movie. Since then mobile gaming has become a giant part of the business, however, so while the likelihood of a PC or console release has diminished over the years, a phone game is the best we can reasonably expect at this point.
When it comes to the game itself, we know very little, with this paragraph (and the screenshots therein) from a recent TOS update all we really know…
The game, developed by GameDigits Ltd, will see players take control of Red Dwarf and Starbug, on a quest to explore as far into deep space as possible – with a wide range of minigames helping to boost your progress. Best of all, after the game’s launch it will update on a regular basis with content relating to each new Red Dwarf XI episode!
The problem with mobile, of course, is there are many, many pitfalls that a mobile game can fall into. Intrusive, battery-sapping ads, unfair game design to drive the micro-transaction market and poor porting to Android are sadly common issues. On the flip side, there are many that can create great mobile games within that unforgiving mobile market. So, with that in mind, we thought we’d take a closer look at the relevant and more prominent games offered by GameDigits, and try to garner what we might expect come Thursday.
Storage Hunters UK: The Game
In Storage Hunters UK: The Game you are pitted against a collection of people (computer or human) to bid for garages full of crap. You can choose to pass or keep bidding until you win or someone else buys said crap. As you move from one garage to the next there are occasional mini-games to help the host (played by Moby) open the door, which include swiping or tapping – you know, general phone stuff. Once you’ve bought your room full of hot garbage you then tap on each thing to see what it’s worth and eventually find out whether you’ve made a profit or not. This part is quite fun since each garage can contain a number of mystery boxes that either yeald treasures, or worthless junk such as black pudding.
After each round your money carries over so you can keep playing until you earn enough to unlock the next location. Heston Blumenthal also has a daily challenge where he’s asking you to find a particular item that he’s too lazy to hunt in some storage to find, which also seems to hook into an ongoing diary of everything you’ve discovered, presumably with the intention of eventually collecting it into one big pile so you can set it all on fire.
This is by far the most relevant of GameDigits’ previous games, as it was actually published by UKTV Media with GameDigits clearly marked as the developers. If I were a betting man I would say this is how the Red Dwarf XI game will also be published, and so we should take special note that of the pricing here. Storage Hunters UK requires a one time purchase of 99p but unfortunately this does not preclude the game from also dealing in micro-transactions, namely consumable XP and skill boosters priced at 79p each. Not only that but you can negate most of the progress in the game by buying each new location for another 79p each, rather than waiting for your accumulated money or XP to unlock it naturally.
In all I think this is a well put together game, but wouldn’t hold my attention for a particularly long time. That said the inclusion of the persistent and constantly expanding collection is likely to be the main draw for returning players, especially since there’s some sweet, sweet rare items to grab! Given that we’re dealing with a paid game (albeit a very cheap one at 99p) I would’ve liked to have seen less in the way of micro-transactions, specifically the consumable booster packs since their use in games like this are for reasons that are less than savoury (look up the term ‘whales’ in the context of micro-transactions and you’ll see what I mean).
Have you ever played Monument Valley? Because GameDigits sure have, and they’re not particularly interested in hiding the fact. Of course clones of games, or ones heavily inspired by ground breaking games, are not a new thing and they’re part of how the medium drives itself forward but in this case the strikingly similar visuals and styles (right down to some assets looking exactly the same) was a bit jarring. That said, there is a difference to the mechanics here, as the robot character you control aimlessly wanders in the only direction it can, with you tasked with timing his movements by pawing at the screen to stop him, and rotating the geometry to allow the tiny robot reach the next stage. It’s a pleasing game, and certainly well made and robust so we should be heartened by this emerging theme of quality, even if it shows a slightly worrying lack of individuality artistically.
Unlike Storage Wars, this is an example of a game that costs money but does not include any extra micro-transactions. It’s also worth mentioning that, also unlike Storage Wars, it features a central story and campaign, both of which we would reasonably expect with the Red Dwarf XI game considering Doug’s involvement in the writing. This style of game rarely suits consumable booster pack style micro-transactions, instead opting for a cost to entry and charged DLC content in the future, or at worst paid cosmetic items.
Platform: iOS (4 stars) – Free – Contains In-App Purchases – Contains Ads
Urgh, again with the appropriating of someone else’s intellectual property. This time the obscure game Minecraft is, er, mined for inspiration and its theme is wrapped around a Flappy Bird clone. And that’s basically it. Again, it’s nicely put together but it is literally just Flappy Bird that looks like Minecraft. Included is a fun looking multi-player game with two characters going through the same course with each player tapping a different side of the screen. Since Mrs. Cappsy was too busy playing iPhone Scrabble and watching Yes Chef and the dog was asleep, I sampled this mode on my own with predictable results.
Since the price of entry to FlyCraft is the grand total of free, we do have the inevitable inclusion of micro-transactions and pop-up adverts that hate your battery about as much as Scottish people hate not battering Chris Barrie’s wig. The micro-transactions are tied to gameplay and give you the opportunity to continue your run after death for the low, low price of 79p. Quite why people would ever do this rather than just starting from 0 is beyond me, since any progress made after the dropping the cash to cheat death is surely worthless. The adverts are frequent (appearing after each death) but ultimately manageable since, in my experience at least, they are restricted to easily dismissed windows and do not feature the obnoxious, and often unskippable, full screen videos.
What can we even conclude?
While I’ve by no means covered everything that GameDigits has to offer (check out their Play Store or App Store pages for more apps if you so fancy) I think these three games pretty much cover all the main aspects we’d want to know about a game company that is entrusted to our beloved franchise. While we still know nothing about the actual structure and game mechanics we can expect, my guess would be we will get a game that costs 99p, includes no adverts, but quite likely features paid consumables to boost your SMEG POINTS, or something. The weekly episode specific updates will likely come free, but story based content isn’t something that GameDigits seems to have touched on before, so that is harder to nail down.
Based on the only other example of a UKTV published GameDigits game, however, we can expect any micro-transactions to be tastefully tucked away and game mechanics that don’t force you towards buying them. At the end of the day, though, we simply don’t know for sure what to expect until the game launches at an unknown time on Thursday. It makes sense to look to Storage Hunters for clues, but Red Dwarf is an entirely different beast, as are its fans, and we might be due something that does business in a very different way.
When it comes to the actual mechanics of the game itself, we’ve seen that GameDigits are not at all shy to be derivative, and based on past form we should probably expect a game that has more than a few similarities to other people’s space based properties. I wish we had more evidence that they are anything other than entry level when it comes to game design, but I’m afraid there is nothing there that doesn’t suggest to me that we’re getting a reskin of FTL, or something. It could be that I’m being massively unfair and the Red Dwarf XI game will be their breakout effort, but right now all we can do is go on past evidence.
We’ll be covering the launch and the subsequent weekly updates in some form or another (although probably not through the medium of the written word, but more on that as it happens) and let you know what we think of Red Dwarf’s venture into the scary world of mobile gaming. Until then, and if you’ve played any GameDigits game, please do let us know what you RECKON in the comments and join us in breathless anticipation for what is to come…