Monday, August 29, 2016

Running Your Own Convention - In Mobile Form!

A game about running your own fan convention. It doesn't sound like an ideal "fun time" compared to what's out on the mobile app marketplace these days. But Con Man is not an average game. It's silly, and unabashfully aware that it's all about the tapping. So much so that it exploits your need to tap, makes fun of you for it, and doesn't beg you to spend your real world money (unless you want to).

I downloaded this app over the weekend to try it out. It's a freemium game, meaning free to download and play, but you can spend money if you wish for additional perks and powerups. But unlike most freemium games, there isn't a limit on gameplay here. You can do quite a lot without spending a penny. Should you wish to spend funds, it's to gain more of the in-game currency and loot boxes. You aren't missing out on exclusive items or new levels.

Con Man began it's life as a web series, funded on Indiegogo as the brain child of Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk. If you have ever seen the show Firefly, you know who these two gents are. The show centers around Alan's character in the life of the convention scene. An actor who tours the sci-fi cons to make ends meat after his show was cancelled. With cameos from Fillion (who is an actor that turns A-list), Felicia Day, and a whole host of noteworthy nerds, it explores the other side of con life from the perspective of the actors! It's really funny. I highly recommend it.

Their $3 million stretch goal included a mobile game based on the show. Released on Friday, the game is already garnering a few chuckles and some massive battery life drains for my poor phone. This may be worse then Pokémon Go.

If you have ever been to a nerdy convention, you'll see all the tropes, stereotypes, and amusement from the moment the loading screen appears. It's all done in an amusing tone, so don't take offense to it. You know you have seen the streaking grandma, or the actor attempting to pick up ladies in costumes. What the game does to expand upon the traditional tap/building games is to provide some different elements, such as battles! At random points throughout the game, aliens will invade your convention and you have to stop them. You'll be sent to an arena where you fight, by tapping, to stop the aliens before they wreck up your con space. Even cooler is that your battle champions are cosplayers with their own special powers.

But let me backtrack a bit. Con Man the game has you play as the convention owner. Your job is to run a successful convention, make money, and expand your space to add more vendor booths and guests. You earn money and xp from each booth you add. But you also have to have staff on hand to help you with amenities, such as food and security. Each of these jobs has a fun character associated with them. Joss Whedon is the Janitor while Kevin Smith is the "con cop." Problems and challenges will appear as the game progresses that you are tasked to resolve. Too many people doing the pee-pee dance? Put more restrooms around the convention (I've already learned that you can't have one bathroom spot. You have to distribute them throughout the area). Bug problem? Squash them with your finger. Each challenge will net you a reward upon completion in cash and XP. As you level up, more building options will become available to you. You can build the standard fare of snack stands and booths, but eventually you'll receive power-up items that offer bonuses - such as a 10% power boost to cleaning out trash cans. And it's not just general con tasks. Even the attendees will have things they need from you, such as finding a lost friend or help locating a booth.

Leveling up goes by fairly quickly, even at the higher end. Make sure to have enough merchant booths to keep up with the pace. At Level 15 you unlock the ability to customize the style of your convention. Gaming centers and sci-fi plots can tailor the look and feel of your con.

The game is fairly easy to pick up and play. Though right now the options are limited. You are required to create an account or sign in to Google Play so it can keep track of your scoring. The options involve adjusting the sound volume, and that's it. All in-game notifications will hit your phone if you keep the app running in the background. Hopefully that's addressed in a future update. Otherwise, the game is pretty standard. There's nothing extraordinary about it, but does add a few new twists to the game type that at least keep your attention for a few more minutes. Worth a download and play if you're a nerd. 

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