Pet Rescue Saga: Mix and Match

[The following text is part of my upcoming master’s thesis on the use of game mechanics in therapy games for children. This is just a rough first draft, and I gladly welcome all critique and suggestions – be it on a content level or regarding my use of language.]

As part of my master’s thesis I am analysing already existing games that are commonly known to be addictive. A lot of those games are Facebook games. As it is paramount for the business model of Facebook games to keep players coming back to play again and again, they need to be built for a high retention. In my analysis of some of the most played Facebook games, I would like to figure out the secret ingredients that make those games so “good”. The analysis of some of those games will be published on this blog, including an overview of the usual “social mechanics” at play that are usually claimed to be of special importance in Facebook games.

Pet Rescue Saga by King (King, 2012a) uses a similar rule set as Diamond Dash, but with the execution of Candy Crush Saga or Bubble Witch Saga, all of which are made by King as well (King, 2011; 2012b).

Just like in Diamond Dash (2011), a board is filled with coloured tiles. Adjacent tiles with the same colour have to be clicked so that they disappear. Pet Rescue Saga requires only two adjacent tiles of the same colour, as opposed to three or more like in Diamond Dash. Also, there is (in its basic form) no time constraint. From there, Pet Rescue Saga departs from Diamond Dash and takes its clues from Candy Crush Saga. Just like Candy Crush Saga, each level has a slightly different win condition, and, as a consequence, also slightly different rules. In some levels, the coloured tiles are not being replaced when they vanish, and the remaining tiles will converge in the bottom left corner (similar to the game “Chain Shot” (Moribe, 1985), better known under the name “Same Game”). In this mode, the goal is to clear the board of all tiles. In other cases, new tiles will drop from the top of the board, just like in Candy Crush Saga. Here, variations occur: Occasionally, a number of tiles that do not disappear have to be brought to the bottom of the board. These tiles take the form of animated animals, the “pets” that need to be “rescued”. These pets do not appear in every level, however. Additionally, quite often the size of the playing board is bigger than the screen, so parts of it is hidden when the level begins. The player will then begin at the top of the board and work his way to the bottom.

Pet Rescue Saga has various other elements that are kept very similar to Candy Crush Saga. The display of the level progression is shown as a map. The player follows a street, with every step being a new level. At the beginning and after completing every level, a score board is shown with the scores of the player’s Facebook friends to foster competition. New power-ups and abilities are unlocked in new levels, giving the player an ever-growing range of possibilities to finish the game and increase her score. While those power-ups usually are free at first, continued use requires payment. Players have “lives”, as well, which they will lose whenever they do not manage to finish a level. Lives are, as is common with other Facebook games, restored over time, but players can also ask their Facebook friends for additional lives, as well as gift lives to other players. All these mechanics have been encountered before in the analyses of Candy Crush Saga and Diamond Dash.

With Pet Rescue Saga basically a mixture between Diamond Dash and Candy Crush Saga, there is not exactly much new to gain from the analysis of this game. Most of the mechanics are either part of the original game idea of Chain Shot or appear in a similar form in Candy Crush Saga, where they are part of the overall monetising strategy. The game is probably best summed up by a review that concluded that, “Pet Rescue Saga is completely unoriginal at its core, but […] highly playable and extremely well-presented” (Davison, 2012). The analysis does, however, prove that it is entirely possible to take certain game mechanics and adapt them to other games, something that I aim to do as well as part of this thesis.

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