Pogs are back in the form of an iOS and Android game called Super Slam. Developers Playlab have taken the reigns on the 90s fad game and given it the modern gaming spin. But is this a slammer of a game or a… well… pile of milkcaps.
In years to come the 90s will be looked back on as very confusing time to be growing up. In one small decade kids went from rolling marbles in playgrounds to downloading illegal music in parents basements. Trying to explain to your average millennial what Pogs is a great way to quickly feel old enough to consider writing a will.
Being based in the UK I off course had an extended train delay last weekend. So with time on my hands I figured I would peruse the newest released games on iPhone. Super Slam from Playlab caught my eye because of it’s bright 90s aesthetic and the fact that it’s about a game that even at the high of it’s popularity most people didn’t bother to actually play.
“Alf’s back..in Pog form!”
Super Slam is the old faithful game of Pogs. You collect ‘milkcaps’ and then against a friend you commit some of your Pogs collection to a small pile set on the ground. In turns you then fling to the ground with enough force to make Thor’s hammer quiver a ‘slammer’ disc. The Pogs you manage to flip over are the ones you get to keep.
Super Slam recreates this in a nice little swipe psychics based game. And I was having a whale of a time collecting milkcaps and flinging my finger across my screen. But after thirty ‘free’ slams it began; the old ‘play-for-free’ dance-gig began. I had to wait eight minutes before I could ‘slam’ again or face paying a small amount of real-world cash for slams. And as anyone who knows me knows I never pay to slam. It’s just not what I do.
At the core of Super Slam is a very nice straight-forward physics game that is genuinely fun to play. It even has a lovely multiplayer mode where you can challenge others. But pretty soon the veneer peels away and you’re left with the archaic pay-to-play formula. The game pushes you to buy more stuff or wait around until it feels ready for you to play again.
It’s the same old tired formula that we’ve seen since Iphone3. And sure, it’s a free game. I understand that I can’t expect a free game to offer up all the top-shelf stuff. But when it’s the 300th game I’ve played that follows this tired psychological games design incentive process it makes you wonder why no-one has found a better way yet.
But I already know why no-one has found a better way; because it works so very well. I put my phone away and sure enough 15 minutes later I get a notification that my slams are ready. Slam away Jack! I had my phone open again faster than the train I was on (which isn’t actually that fast) and I’m slamming Pogs like a mad-man. I may mock the free-to-play formula but my word if it doesn’t work amazingly well.
Super Slam is a skinner-box wallpapered with cheesy 90s nostalgia that works very well. Super Slam deserves to be pedestaled by games-designers as a perfect example of how the free-to-play psychological design approach should be done. But don’t expect anything ground-breaking from Super Slam. It’s a old-school playground game dipped in the gold-paint bucket labelled “2016 Mobile Games Design”.