Gamification. There’s a word that’s easy to hate. It describes the use in other media of the techniques used by games to draw in players. Which in a very many cases, has meant nothing more than cynically using our innate love of being ‘rewarded’ – even when said rewards are nothing more than numbers, or labels – to trick us into thinking we are achieving something. So it is that certain stores now don’t just have loyalty cards, they encourage shoppers to earn ‘achievements’ by purchasing a certain amount of items; that websites encourage us to fill out forms and details by keeping a running tally of everything we’ve submitted – what’s that, my profile is 87% complete? I guess I might as well finish filling it… This ‘brave new world’ of gamification has attracted a lot of attention, and a lot of criticism, for its manipulation of people through our natural impulses to earn rewards and to complete things.
More relevantly to us, the lessons learned from gamification – the manipulation of people using simple metagames – are making their way back into games. Obviously, having originated with games in the first place, it’s not as though we haven’t had these elements floating around already: these are the tricks that RPGs use to make us put up with unimaginative sessions of grinding. They’re the spark that led to the introduction of Achievements with the Xbox 360. They’re the reason for the system of unlocks in games like Call of Duty. But they are getting more prevalent, and being used in more situations where they absolutely have no place, used to excuse lazy design, to extract players’ time and money with minimum effort.
As you might have guessed from the preamble, Taptitude abuses the lessons of gamification in exactly this manner.
A collection of minigames, Taptitude uses several intertwining reward structures to keep the player’s interest. The most traditional are the stars – every minigame can reward you up to five stars, depending on how well you do in it. Stars unlock further games, as well as slowly filling up a completion bar to show you just how well you’re doing across the game as a whole. Then there are coins – again, coins are rewarded for success, but also from pick-ups in certain games. Coins can be spent to purchase unlockable items in different games – from bonus abilities to make the games easier (essential for getting five stars in some cases), to simple aesthetic tweaks – and even some utterly inane abilities such as having a minigame auto-update your position on the leaderboard, saving you from having to press a button. The unlockables also have their own progress bars, displayed alongside the star completion bar and a total play time bar whenever a level is completed, encouraging you to try and get your hands on everything.
The systems intermingle heavily in certain minigames: some are actually gambling systems (slot machines, blackjack and a coin toss) which allow you to wager your coins, in which the game actively encourages you to bet high by tying the stars earned in these games to the amount won. Others, like Coin Miner, not only allow you to collect large amounts of coins, they require you to purchase upgrades to have any success with them.
And the game knows how to please you. Start up a new game after a day or two of not playing, and it’ll pop up with a ‘reward’ of 1000 coins. And in case the three metrics of star-, upgrade- and time-completion weren’t enough, the game allows you to use coins to purchase another three progress bars: total number of games played, total stars earned (including repeat earnings – so earning 5 stars twice fills gives you 10 stars towards this bar), and total coins earned. If you want to play a game which will tell you just how much you’re progressing in every possible respect, you’ve come to the right place.
Unfortunately, if you actually wanted to play some decent games, you’ll want to look elsewhere.
The 43 minigames currently available sound like a generous amount, until you realise that they all fall within a narrow range of genres, and all share the same, incredibly simple (and not particularly attractive) aesthetic, with a very few exceptions. So, for example, there’s “Draw a Triangle”, where you have to, um, draw a triangle. Then there’s “Draw a Square”. And “Draw a Circle”. And “Draw a Star”. And “Draw a Heart”. And finally “Draw Shapes”, which has you draw that triangle, and that square, and that circle, and that star, and that heart, all in a row. Variety!
Then there’s the avoidance levels. Hold the phone level, then tilt it to keep your ball away from incoming obstacles. Then do so while staying in a spotlight. Then do so against patterns of obstacles. Then do so while picking up friendly objects. You get the idea.
The fact is that of these 43 minigames, many are clones of one another; several are clones of other smartphone games (Shape Ninja bearing an uncanny resemblance to Fruit Ninja, for example) or of card games and gambling machines; not one is original or particularly well executed. The real game comes from the aforementioned metrics – the 3 (or 6, after upgrading) measures of your ‘success’ in the metagame. These measures of your success, of your worth, try to distract you from the awfulness of the games you are playing, and they succeed – for a while.
And then it hits you. Then you realise that you’ve been wasting your time doing things you don’t enjoy, simply because there are goals that the game insists you should be reaching, that there are bars that need filling. You’re executing mundane, menial tasks, instead of something you might actually enjoy, because of the game’s exploitation of your natural compulsion to complete things, to reach targets set you. And it’s a horrible feeling – the feeling of wasted time.
Don’t waste your time on this. Unfortunately, BestWP7Games’ scoring system doesn’t allow me to award below a 3 for this game, as those scores are reserved for games that are actually, literally broken in some way. Taptitude, for all its sins, does actually work. It just doesn’t deserve to be played.
Taptitude Gameplay Video
Version Under Review : 126.96.36.199
Taptitude is a FREE game for Windows Phone 7
Our Rating for Taptitude