When we announced our mobile game development competition last year, we didn't expect to receive so many quality submissions! As we pored over the games that were submitted we realized that the game development community could benefit from hearing a transparent overview of our decision process. We've published 22 games made by small indie teams and Astro Mined (available on the App Store!) is our 23rd! Read on to see why we selected them as the winner of our Mobile Game Development Competition!
Astro Mined strikes the right balance of proven ideas and innovative gameplay. The game is inspired by both Minesweeper and Sokoban. Minesweeper is a household name and its gameplay's appeal has been proven time and time again. The litany of Minesweeper games on the App Store tell us that the market is crowded, but that there is strong demand for this type of gameplay. Sokoban is more of a cult classic and less of a household name, but variants of the concept have flourished on the App Store as well and Sokoban devotees with be excited to find a game that appeals to their tastes. A gamer who appreciates a game like Unblock Me! is likely to appreciate a Sokoban variant as well.
A number of success stories on the App Store including Angry Birds, Dots, and Cut The Rope were incredibly well executed iterations of gameplay with past proven appeal. When we saw Astro Mined, we saw a very polished blend of two gameplay types we loved and knew the public would appreciate - a potentially winning formula! We feel that this type of game concept is a great fit for mobile and encourage other developers to incorporate the mechanics 2D game classics of times past in their brainstorming sessions as they dream up new games.
Astro Mined is a great looking and sounding game. It is clear the developers put a deep level of care into the game. Everything feels right - controls are responsive, character movements are snappy, and the game runs very smoothly. There are a variety of factors that come together, some quantifiable some not, to make playing a game feel delightful. Playing Astro Mined is a delight! To top it all off, it's a universal app right off the bat - it runs just as well on iPhones as on iPads.
Polish isn’t only about looks. For example, the creators surely noticed that players occasionally tried tapping in the main gameplay area instead of using the gamepad. Astro Mined accommodates all the actions a player would intuitively take, and that’s huge in our book. Casual players will tap the main gameplay area, precision players will use the gamepad, everything works intuitively and nobody is left in the dark. In today’s day and age developers have seconds to convince players to stick with their game instead of closing it so there cannot be a wrong way to play.
The creators also took great care to gradually introduce gameplay concepts. Too many puzzle games overload the player during their tutorial, trying to expose all the mechanics of the game at once. Astro Mined has several layers of depth and introduces them gently throughout the initial levels. This reflects time spent playtesting and iterating, a big component of how polished a game feels. Always playtest regularly and with new people who have never played your game!
A puzzle game is only as good as its puzzles, and boy does Astro Mined deliver! We received several impressive submissions with extremely clever game mechanics where the developers didn’t create enough content worthy of the mechanics. In contrast, the Astro Mined developers clearly put as much time into developing their game as they did into creating levels for it! Indie developers tend to underestimate the burden of content creation - it takes a lot of time and effort and can be thankless. Putting in new features is immediately fun and rewarding, getting a new level in can take ages to get right and be very frustrating in the interim. We were extremely impressed by the amount of content in the version of Astro Mined that was submitted to us and just how darn clever some of the puzzles were!
In particular, the game capitalizes on the fact it is a fusion of two puzzle game concepts to offer levels that tend more towards Minesweeper, more towards Sokoban, and our favorite - levels that make clever use of both games’ mechanics! Astro Mined retains the cerebral nature of Minesweeper and Sokoban but adds a visceral level of excitement by putting the player in the center of the action in a minefield.
The creators of Astro Mined uncovered a fantastic combination of game mechanics that couldn’t go better together. The Sokoban-style block moving gameplay is greatly augmented by the risk of running over a mine, and the Minesweeper-style gameplay is much more exciting when the player gets to control a character in the thick of the action. The developers took this fantastic concept, created an extremely polished game, and then created incredible puzzles to take advantage of all the game mechanics available to them. We have a winner!
About Us: MakeGamesWithUs is a mobile game publisher and the web's leading resource on mobile game development tutorials for Cocos2D and SpriteBuilder. If you want to learn how to make a game like Astro Mined consider applying to the 8 week intesive game development course we will be running this summer: www.mgw.us/academy.