Pixel Platformers Have Never Been So Profitable
There are many ways in which we judge our games. Gameplay, visuals, story, etc. Some would argue that the sole criteria for judging a game should simply be “is it fun.” There is merit to this argument, under which Playgendary’s Tomb of the Mask: Color would rate quite high (more on that later). However, there are other considerations. Such as does the game let you enjoy yourself for more than 15 seconds before reminding you that we live in a capitalist society in which anything and everything, including our attention, is a commodity for sale? No. It does not. Ah, well therein lies the rub.
Less Is More
On the surface Tomb of the Mask: Color is deceptively simple. The only control is swiping your finger to control the direction of your avatar and the only objective is to occupy every space in a given level at least once. No doors, no keys, just some sparsely spaced coins and a few devilishly simple obstacles. And there is nothing wrong with this. Simple yet brutal 2D pixel games can be quite enjoyable, games like VVVVVV are incredibly addicting and fun. TotM: Color succeeds on the gameplay front. The levels are simple yet will often require quick reflexes and a little bit of thought to complete. Combine this with responsive controls, pleasing if simple visuals, and satisfying sound and feedback and you get a wonderful little time waster. For a free game, there’s a lot to like. But being free requires that we pay for it in some other way. There’s no such thing as free lunch (thanks Econ 101).
Something Doesn’t Ad Up
There are two ways to “pay” for TotM: color: Play for free with ads or pay $3.49 with ads. That’s right. Even after paying the small fee to “stop ads” as the game’s shop proclaims you still get ads. Sounds like a win-win huh? To clarify, there are two ways in which you will encounter ads. Between levels (very frequently) you will be met with short ads you can skip either right away or after 5 or so seconds. This wouldn’t be that bad, except that it happens very frequently, like after almost every level. The second is after death. To get a continue upon death, you can either pay 50 coins, that are either collected in levels, bought in the store, or earned by watching an unskippable ad. It’s these ads you cannot escape. Even after paying. It makes sense though, if you didn’t get these ads anymore and could get a continue for free then the coins would lose all purpose. It’s not right, but it makes sense.
Ah, but what if you disable your wifi and data? Surely ads can’t load if you’re not connected. True enough, however, you’ll then simply be forced to either pay up your 50 coins or restart the level, losing all progress. There are no loopholes in this devil’s deal. And, as if to keep you in a perpetual loop of advertisements, the game will often spawn you exactly where you died leading to another quick death lest you are quick with your fingers.
Tomb of the Mask: Color is yet another example of a good game ruined by bad monetization. On the whole, the game is quite fun. In fact, if it were not free but rather cost the $3.49 they charge to get rid of (some) ads, it would almost certainly be worth it. But the incessant advertisements that persist even after paying are a slap in the face. Make no mistake the game lies to you when it offers to remove the ads for a fee. That is not something that can be forgiven. And so, despite how well made the rest of the game might be, it fails to meet basic expectations of fairness.
Is it Hardcore?
Tomb of the Mask: Color would almost certainly be one of the greats were it not for its advertisements. As it is it, it lets itself down.