Tap to Jump

November 23rd, 2012

Philosophical and Intellectual Background Musings:

Run and jump side scrolling games have been a staple of video games since their early creation. The concept was always very simple. Use the control arrows to run back and forth, press a button to jump. These simple games are easy to pick up and can be quite addicting for short casual gaming.

Touch interfaces lend themselves nicely to this type of game, with one exception. It’s not easy to have directional controls. As with a console game or hand held, you would have a direction pad, but on a smooth surface of a phone or tablet, that isn’t the case.

The solution of course, is simple. Just run one way.

This is an elegant solution because it offers a new level of simplicity. Now, the only thing the player needs to do is “tap to jump.”

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Since buying my iPod Touch back when they first came out and following through to my iPad and iPhone I have found three tap to jump games which have really stood out and caused me to spend a lot of time relaxing. (I refuse to call this time wasted, but that’s a different blog post.) Here are the three I really enjoy.

Canabalt – $2.99

I got Canabalt back when it first came out in 2009.

The concept of the game is pretty simple. You are a small pixelated guy running across the rooftops of an endless city in the middle of the apocalypse. You tapped the screen to jump and tried not to fall off or get hit by some of the different obstacles. As you went along the background moved slowly, depicting two large mechanical creatures facing off.

What makes games like this so addicting is the feeling of possibility. Every time you jumped wrong and hit a wall you always felt like you were really close to making it. You had to try again, because clearly, that was just a fluke and you could do better next time. You only needed to tap the screen if you wanted to try again.

Jetpack Joyride – Free

Jetback Joyride was the second game of this sort which I encountered. It also had a simple storyline. You begin, having broken through the wall of a top secret research facility, steal a jetpack, and ride it until you crash and die.

When you say it that way, it doesn’t really sound all that exciting, and some days, it maybe isn’t. But again, you are always left with a feeling that next time, you’ll do better.

What made this game a little bit more fun was that it also included an aspect of coin collecting and missions. As you play, you are given missions that you can choose to complete in order to get stars, level up, and ultimately get more coins. The coins can be used to buy upgrades and also superficial cosmetic things, like clothing or jetpacks. My favorite jetpack is the “Golden Piggy Bank” which propels you into the air by firing dollar bills at the ground. The game describes it as such: “Powered by firing 1928 issue $1,000 bills, this jetpack is probably the most wasteful machine ever created.”

One last feature I enjoy with the game is the “free to play/support us later” which is becoming more common. The game is free to play as long as you like, fully featured. But you always have the option of going in and buying coin packs, should you want to get a bunch of upgrades without all the annoying coin collecting.

When I get a lot of enjoyment out of a free game, I will often look for a way to support the developer, and in the case of Jetpack Joyride, I eventually purchased the “Counterfeit Machine” for a couple dollars, as a thank you for the hours of fun I had. The thing I like about Halfbrick‘s game is that they don’t try to sell you anything. The “buy” page is a few levels deep, so you never feel annoyed or pressured to take our your wallet and give them money.

Extreme Road Trip 2 – Free

This is the latest game I have been playing. Technically, it’s a bit more advanced that the last two, but it follows the same rules. The premise is that you are driving a car along an off road terrain. If you tap the bottom left corner, your car tilts back. If you tap the bottom right corner, the car tilts forward. As you drive along, your goal is to do flips in the air to gain Nitro and go as far as you can before you crash (explode) or run out of gas (and explode.)

I was first introduced to the game when I found out that Jimmy Hinson (Big Giant Circles) did the soundtrack for it. It’s a simple soundtrack with just a few songs, but it really captures the high speed pace of the game. Very enjoyable to listen to.

Beyond the standard car upgrades and purchasing of extra coins the game has a few other neat features. If you connect up with GameCenter you can see the “ghost” cars of your friends who have raced. That way you can compare your performance and distances as you go along. You can also compare your current race to your old race ghost.

The game isn’t perfect, there are a few too many ads and “free coins if you do this” buttons that clutter the main page, but the actual gameplay is rather intriguing. It’s probably one of the more complex tap to jump games and certainly the most challenging I have found in a while, but I keep coming back because it’s so easy to sit down and play.

So those are my current casual “go to” games. Which tap to jump games do you enjoy?