“We have IAP, but we kind of hate it in games,” Hello Games’ Sean Murray tells me, discussing the upcoming Joe Danger Touch on iOS. IAP (in app purchases) – the sadly now omnipresent ‘feature’ found in pretty much everything on the App Store – can ruin a gaming experience. That doesn’t look likely for Joe Danger.
“We’re tweaking it so it’s totally possible (and the most fun) to just play through the game and earn enough coins to unlock everything as you go,” adds Sean, as if to placate any such fears.
The game, which I’ve been playing for day or two, can be beaten without spending any additional cash after the price of entry, but the option is there to boost your in-game reserves if you wish to. It’s not – unlike a fair chunk of current games on the service – a requirement.
“If you really want, you can use real money to just buy characters, and not play the game,” adds Sean, “but really, who are those people?”
Joe Danger Touch might carry the Joe Danger name, but it’s an entirely new experience. The controls, a series of twitchy throws of the analog stick, wouldn’t have translated over to the touch screen and Hello Games aren’t the sort of developers happy to just shove on one of those dreaded virtual sticks. Instead, everything is communicated with taps, slides and holds, and in mapping over the main mechanics properly the end result is a far better game that anyone might have expected.
“Looks-wise,” says Sean, “I think we’re putting a PS3 quality game on iPhone and iPad.” He’s probably a little off the mark, but on an iPhone 5 Joe Danger sports a rock solid 60fps, with razor-sharp visuals (and obviously uses the full width of the new display). It’s a colourful, rich looking game, and it’s one that doesn’t falter throughout the fairly lengthy campaign mode. Or, at least, doesn’t as far as I’ve played.
Apparently on iPhone 4S and iPad 2 you get Normal Mapping and post-processing, the iPhone 5 has more physics objects going on, and the iPad mini has dynamic shadows. Untested by me, but I’m told the 3GS version “runs really nicely” too.
So how does it work? Well, over a series of increasingly tricky sections, each with a number of levels within, Joe Danger must get from one point to another, avoiding traps, dodging spikes, ducking under objects and jumping over others. You’ll race others, score points and do tricks – much like the PS3 version of the game, albeit with all new levels.
Acceleration is automatic, however, and the player taps to jump, holds to duck, swipes to wheelie and a deft index finger is used to grab D A N G E R letters and push barriers out of the way. In some cases it’s a more evolved Rayman Jungle Run but it’s also immediately intuitive and the desire to better each level is still as strong as it was on PS3, regardless of the input methods.
Progression is perpetual, too. You might not finish a level with everything ticked, but you’ll still earn coins. Coins are used to buy new characters (and this is what’s topped up with IAP if required) and new characters are used in specific levels (with Elvis used pretty early in his own bonus run). “One of may favorite additions on iPhone, is that no matter what, you are always earning coins,” says Sean.
“Even if you die, you are still racking up achievements, or progressing in some way. It’s a design I’ve really admired in lots of iOS games, especially Jetpack Joyride, and it really suits a mobile game.”
There’s no multiplayer (and isn’t likely to be) but there are Challenges, powered by Game Center, and the obvious leaderboards for competition. The Challenges are clever: if you get three golds on a level or a new high score, you can fire off a Challenge to a friend to do the same.
“If a friend sends you a challenge, the game will detect it and take you straight to the right event, even if you haven’t unlocked it yet,” explains Sean. “This is great, because friends can help each other to preview and unlock later levels. Score Challenges are what it’s all about though.”
It’s shaping up nicely. The version I have isn’t quite finished, but I’m struggling to see where further optimisation might happen – everything is pretty slick and the game fits the platform perfectly. As long as it’s not priced daftly, this could be pretty big for Hello Games.