One of the first few games I started playing on the iPad (not mine) was Pocket Frog.
It’s easy to see what drew me to it. I like “collecting” things in games, and the app is pretty smooth, and its gameplay is simple. What I was going for in particular were the awards, for example to collect 8 frogs of a specific species in the same habitat.
I found myself playing for hours… until I finally let go of the iPad, looked at the clock, and concluded that I hadn’t done much apart from hopping some frogs around, in ponds of unlimited size, and breeding frogs to get different kinds of colours and species.
And really, that is all there is to the game.
It might seem that the “challenging” part of the game is to achieve awards, which requires you to make the best use of your resources.
For example, you may have 2 habitats, and each habitat can only hold 8 frogs. You have a set goal to collect 8 frogs of different colours. So you would need to breed the pair(s) of frogs that could lead to this combination. The offspring appears as a tadpole and you don’t get to see if it’s the right colour until it has developed into a frog. If you are lucky, the eventual offspring is exactly the colour you want; if not, you can try again, but you need to decide what to do with your new unwanted frog, which is taking up space in your habitat. You can sell it, but you don’t have a lot of money, so you might want to grow and develop it, and feed it to achieve maximum happiness, to maximize the frog’s worth.
Sounds challenging enough, right? Until you realize that you are doing the same thing over and over again.
I mean, can we do anything else with the frogs? Can we race them on the lily pads, and perhaps raise their worth? Could there be other mini-games that lead to prizes? Could there be ways to affect the outcome of breeding a pair of frogs, e.g. their diet (so far, only dragonflies), or their strengths? Could the frogs be further identified as male and female, and complicate the breeding possibilities? C’mon, make it a little more interesting.
I haven’t really played any breeding games, e.g. Monster Rancher, so maybe I’m just not familiar with gameplay. It may just be the trend. There are a lot of iPad and iPhone games that follow in this vein of mindless gameplay. There is also a trend of gaining achievements or awards, that depend on the amount of time you spend playing a game rather than requiring you to improve of your skills. It is cute to play a Flash game and get an award just for clicking on the “Credits” button; and it may feel like you’re gaining something if you win awards for the number of times you reached the boss on “Hard” level, even if you never actually beat him. Maybe.
But definitely, I feel that there is a lot more that can be done with this game, and others that are similar.