· 9 min read

Five Key Lessons from Playing Five Hybrid Mobile Games

What makes a great hybrid mobile game? Industry specialist, Jupiter Hadley, plays and reviews five of the best hybrid games out there, and answers just that.

Thousands (if not millions) of people have been working from home this month, and in return, gaming has boomed. And with the now announced lockdown in the UK and other countries, we’ll likely see a higher increase in downloads, session length, and session counts. I’ve been working from home for my entire life, and games have been there for me. It seems they’re helping everyone else in the same way now, too.

This month, I have specifically taken a look at hybrid games (games that smash together two different genres to make one great game). And if you pay any attention to the mobile gaming industry, then you’ll know that this is a trend that has been getting more traction over the years. So, as usual, I’ve picked out my five favorite games in this genre, and deconstructed them to learn just what makes these so great.

1. TaniNani

  • Developer: WhyKev
  • Launch date: January 12th, 2020
  • Price: $3.99
  • Available on: iOS & PC
  • Hybrid Genres: Puzzle & Platformer

WhyKev’s TaniNani is a puzzle game that takes a two-by-three grid of gems, characters, keys, buttons, land, and more, then lets the player swap these tiles to achieve a few different goals. Combining these genres of puzzle and platform is very common in mobile games, but I feel TaniNani does this in a very polished way that stands out amongst the rest.

A minimalistic approach to mix genres

When combining two commonly linked genres, focusing on making the gameplay fun and not too feature-dense is key, in my opinion. When focusing too much on adding loads of features, the games with two genres can sometimes feel confused and almost crowded, as if they are trying too hard to make a common ground between the two. TaniNani took a minimalist approach when putting together these genres, making sure that each level had a clean UI, had an intuitive design and was short yet sweet.

Changing goals throughout the game

WhyKev did an amazing job of making sure the game didn’t feel too repetitive. A great example of this is the changing of the goals. Each level has just two goals. But those goals are always different in each level – even if only slightly. Some goals focus on how long it takes for your character to fall. Others look at the overall time it takes you to complete a level.  And then others may require you to find items, like gems.

Honestly, this really does keep a game fresh. Changing these goals makes the different worlds more challenging and less predictable (which is essential for perfecting your game’s core loop).

2. Meteorfall: Journeys

  • Developer: Eric Farraro
  • Launch date: May 9th, 2019
  • Price: $3.99
  • Available on: iOS & Android
  • Hybrid Genres: Rogue-like & Card Game

Meteorfall: Journeys is probably one of the easiest games to pick up (and one of my favorites). It’s rogue-like, card-based gameplay has a brilliant balance, and isn’t too complex or complicated. To give you an idea of what it’s about, you pick a character and then start your adventure, facing off monster cards, swiping left or right on the card drawn for your deck, and balancing your energy. As you continue on your journey, you’ll level up and, like in Slay the Spire, you’ll get to choose between rest stops to upgrade, or destroy cards.

Using two genres for an easier approach

When it comes to combining two genres to make a hybrid, Farraro combined the rogue-like genre with a card game, making the card elements a lot easier to understand.  As someone who likes the idea of deck building and card games, but often finds them extremely complicated, this hybrid is perfect for people like me. Having byte-sized quests and a simplified deck is ideal for players who don’t want to make difficult decisions, or do hours of homework just to have a chance at surviving.

A balancing act

As mentioned, this game is super easy to play and had a brilliant balance to it. That said, the game is indeed easy to learn, but can be tricky to master and does become more complicated. Players have the option to continually customize their deck, getting rid of cards for better chances of drawing ones they like, and can upgrade their cards. As you level your character up, monsters level up, too. So, despite being easy to play, Meteorfall: Journeys does get more challenging, appealing to both the hardcore and casual players.

3. Cook to the Beat

  • Developer: Raccoopack Studios
  • Launch date: November 20th, 2019
  • Price: Free, with in-app purchases
  • Available on: iOS & Android
  • Hybrid Genres: Cooking & Rhythm

Cook to the Beat is a wonderful funky cooking game that has you playing as an animal chef who has to prep food for dishes. The big twist here is that you do this along to music tracks. Each dish has a few different rankings, which ultimately affect the pace of the song (and it’s difficulty).

The controls heavily rely on muscle memory. Here’s my best attempt at describing this (or watch the video): players tap on either side of the screen to season a specific color. But sometimes you’ll need to chop, and that can require you to tap both sides. Thankfully this game has helpful onboarding, so it doesn’t take long for the player to get used to these controls.

Combining two strange genres

When it comes to rhythm cooking games, there aren’t many of them (I can’t think of any off of the top of my head, and I really love cooking games). For me, rhythm games bring to mind dancing or singing, not cooking and chopping, which made this hybrid so unique. Combining two genres that may not pair together or go together often, and then making it fluid, is a really smart way to make your game stand out. I’m not sure how Raccoonpack Studios came up with combining these two genres, but it instantly made for an exciting title.

Juicy gameplay feels rewarding

Raccoopack Studios did a brilliant job at making Cook to the Beat feel rewarding, which is vital in most mobile games (especially in casual). As you play, there’s a bunch of little touches on animation.  Your cute character looks genuinely sad when you miss a ‘chop’ and is excited when you get good combos.

You can get to a combo streak that actually makes smaller characters appear in the background, dancing along with you. Even your character’s face changes (smiling or frowning, depending on how you’re doing). Every little touch is there to make the game feel good. Keeping your combos going feels fun, and the end of the level celebration feels like an achievement, making you want to squeeze in just more level.

4. Summer Catchers

  • Developer: Noodlecake Studios Inc
  • Launch date: July 16th, 2019
  • Price: Premium, depends on the platform
  • Available on: iOS, Android & PC
  • Hybrid Genres: Endless Runner & Narrative RPG

Summer Catchers is an adorable endless runner game with a story-based twist. As you play, you learn about the different characters’ lives in each town you visit, all while you try to get home.

Adding a second genre for a rounded experience

Endless runners are often straightforward games that don’t have a lot of player retention. It’s so easy to get bored when playing these types of games, and often it feels like you are just high score chasing, with no real reward or goal. When combining that genre with narration, it suddenly gives meaning and longevity to a game that otherwise would be quite simple and, over time, dull.

Keeping the genres slightly separated

When combining these genres, Noodlecake Studios kept the two aspects of the game quite separate, not mixing them too much. I feel this was a brilliant decision, as the two aspects feel quite different from each other.

Playing in the endless runner, when you die after fighting on for a while, you get a little respite by going back and learning bits of the story. The characters you meet are engaging, and you can build a bond with them as you try to get further in your quest. For me, this hybrid took away all of the tedious aspects of a runner, which was great to see.

5. Pachoink!

  • Developer: A To Play Ltd.
  • Launch date: January 31st, 2020
  • Price: £2.99
  • Available on: iOS & Android
  • Hybrid Genres: Plink & Break Out

When was the last time you played a pachinko board? For me, it was at a winter fair in London a couple of years back, with a pretty big physical board in front of me. Pachinko isn’t a genre that I’ve actually seen used much, but I’m thrilled to see that A To Play has recently published one, which I strongly recommend you guys try out.

Combining older genres

Pachoink clearly takes inspiration from older genres; using both Breakout concepts and pachinko concepts to create something new and fresh. These two genres are both ones that I haven’t seen used in a while, so the game feels sort of nostalgic – a throwback to older games that I use to play – but with a new twist due to the fusion. If you’re considering making a hybrid-game, this approach could be a winner.

Old genres don’t mean old graphics

The one thing that I feel Pachoink could do with improving is the graphics. When it comes to combining older genres, you might feel that creating some older-looking graphics will continue to match what you are trying to do. For me, this doesn’t work. Having graphics that instantly look dated can make a significant impact on your game. This is doubly true when it comes to making choices when downloading games; graphics are the first thing that’s looked at. So, it could be worth updating the style (or at least A/B testing in the prototype stage, to see what works with your potential players).

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