I first heard about A Game of Drones a few months ago. Just vague rumors of its existence, no official release date for the US; just sweet, sweet rumors. I did manage to catch a glimpse of it on someone else’s phone. I immediately checked the App Store, but had no luck in finding the game. Later I found out it was released in some other country. I, having an Apple device, decided it best to wait and not void my TOS.
One day while perusing the App Store in search of something to kill the time, there it was. That glorious picture of Bender made all my childish (mobile) dreams come true. I immediately downloaded it, but was quickly summoned away by a child of mine demanding something. When the chaos was over (like six hours later), I began playing. It was all I had hoped for and more! ….until it wasn’t.
First, you start off as The Professor for the tutorial, in a simple Bejeweled style game where you match up same colored droids in order to “deliver” them. The biggest difference is that the new droids do not fall neatly into lines, because the grid is hexagonal in shape instead of square. The new droids fall from the top and go where they please left, right, or down. It is hard to predict where the droids will fall, making planning your next move nigh impossible. It also makes this a game of luck rather than a game of skill. Matching five or more droids will give you a super droid. These super droids look like boxes with different pictures in the center. Each picture has a different effect; one removes an entire line of droids, one that explodes twice and one that removes the droids of the chosen color. Each super droid can combine with one other super droid causing a new and different effect. These super droids add to the luck factor of the game as they can set each other off in unintended ways, but can be useful if you are limited on moves. As you progress through the game there are new obstacles to beating each level. They include but are not limited to: brain slugs that multiply, boxes from a completing delivery company you have to destroy, and toxic waste you have to get rid of.
As you continue through the game and story you are assigned a new character every 25 levels or so. At the end of each characters story there is a cool boss battle. This is probably the best part of the game and should be expanded upon. The game play is the same for the boss battles, but you are battling against the computer. You each take a turn and are trying to collect droids of six different colors in order to hurt your opponent. There are also battle droids that you can use to cause damage in between collecting droids. This game play would be awesome for a future update or separate game that you can play against real people either online or on your own device via pass and play/local connection.
Each character has a special power up that you can use when the meter gets filled by making deliveries. Fry is the first character you play with a power up and he destroys all droids of the same color. Zapp Brannigan, by comparison, just shoots a missile and blows up a rather large area of the board, causing you to have a completely new playing field. Each character’s power is different from the others, causing your strategy to change drastically every time you switch characters. The best part of the power moves is that they don’t count against your move counter. This is great because some levels are tough to beat in the given amount of moves.
There are also special items provided to you throughout the game. Three you can choose from at the beginning of the level and three you can use during the level. You get to try each one out for free during the level they are introduced and for beating the level you receive two of the item you just tried out. This great, because everyone likes free stuff. If you want any more items you must buy them with in-game dollars, which cost real dollars. Yes, this game has in app purchases.
Let’s talk in app purchase for a minute… THEY ARE STUPID EXPENSIVE!!!!! It cost 90 (in-game) to refill your hearts to full and to gain five more moves after you fail. This isn’t too bad; what is bad is the power-ups. It cost anywhere from 300-900 dollars to purchase a three pack of power ups. It’s a big deal because you only get 1200 in game dollars for $9.99 real money. There is one other way to get power ups and in game dollars, but more on that later. Power-ups are so incredibly useful and almost essential if you don’t want to get stuck on some levels for days (which I personally have experienced).
It is true, I have been stuck on a level for days. The game is incredibly luck based, and unless you spend money on adding more turns, hearts, and/or power items it can be incredibly frustrating! I didn’t sit there and play every time a heart became available, but I did play several times a day. Usually when I did beat the level in question it was just by sheer luck! There is very little skill involved in this game, and you cannot consciously improve anything to garner better results. You keep playing and keep hoping you get lucky in your droid drops to suit the level.
Speaking of levels, each one is different. Some are similar, but so far no two have been exactly the same. You have some with missing pieces droids can’t cross, some with warp pipes the droids fall through, some with two sections of map and teleporters that move the droids to split section; I could go on but I won’t. Some of these levels were designed by a monster that wanted to make the most annoying game possible. There are times when you have to break objects at the top of the map, which is difficult unless you get a good drop. There are times when all but one entry point for droids are blocked and you have to unblock them to make more droids fill the empty voids. Ok I went on, but the point is this game isn’t necessarily hard so much as it is annoying and frustrating.
The game was great at first, pretty easy but still challenging enough to keep me engaged. Then came Zapp Brannigan. This was the turning point. Everything changed. I mean everything. This is where new objectives to beat the levels were beginning to come into play. The new and infuriating obstacles to make life difficult just kept coming. One big thing I didn’t even really pay attention to, or even notice, is the amount of moves you have per level until Zapp. Now it became imperative to look, because if you lose a level you lose a heart. Another thing I did not realize was a thing is the heart counter. You have 5 hearts when you meter is full and it takes 30 minutes to regenerate a heart. You can however watch ads, when the game decides you can, to gain one heart and play again. This isn’t too big of a deal considering it is a free game. What is a big deal is that randomly in between levels you have to watch ads, with no benefit to you! The push for “consumer engagement with sponsors” seems scattered here at best, and abusive at worst.
Oh, and the Robot Devil is a thing. You don’t get to play as him, but he does allow you to spin his Wheel of Robots if you watch an ad. This is how you get extra in game dollars and free items. The prizes are in game dollars, unlimited hearts for 5, 10, or 15 minutes, and a jackpot. The in game dollar amounts you receive from the Robot Devil are pathetic! You can only get anywhere from 1-5 dollars on a normal space and I have gotten as much as 20 from a jackpot (a far cry away from the 300ish you need to get useful items), but for the most part it is 10. In as long as I have been playing I have gotten 1, yes 1, item from the Robot Devil’s jackpot. This is the only way you can earn in game money, which forces you to spend real money if you want to buy any extra items. You are supposed to be able to spin the wheel every 10 minutes, but the game has some serious glitches.
Speaking of glitches, there are many (the Robot Devil being one just one instance). Game of Drones often crashes randomly in the middle of a game, stealing your heart with it. Sometimes you can’t watch ads to gain a heart. Maybe there is a limit, but so far it appears to be random (and if there is a limit, it is not communicated very well). Also sometimes the droids don’t go the way you moved them screwing up your chance at victory. This might just be me fat fingering, but no one likes to admit they might have done something wrong (especially me).
While I have enjoyed this game, I know what it is. It is a slot machine disguised as a puzzle game. Game of Drones takes very minimal skill, some strategy, and a whole lotta luck. This is not a game you play to get better at, because you can’t. You can’t improve luck. This is a game you play because you like the feeling of finally winning a level you have been stuck on. You like to watch the explosions, get the praise from Futurama characters, and the sense of personal satisfaction you get. You play it to find out what happens next in the mostly enjoyable story line. Would I recommend this game for everyone? No, this is not a game for everyone. This game is designed to make you spend money. I personally have not spent any, but I can guarantee you that if I had I would have had a much more enjoyable time in some situations. I would recommend this game to people that don’t mind playing a luck based casual game with some strategy involved. I would say steer clear if you prefer something with trainable skills and more strategy. This game is great at first but becomes more luck based the further you get and it gets more infuriating if you choose not to spend money on in app purchases.