Recently in Mechanic's Report Category

At first glance, Super Meat Boy is pretty simple: run, jump, and don't hit anything that isn't a wall or floor, because it'll kill you.  And, honestly, that's all quite relevant.  But after you've played a few of the very short levels, a lot of nuance begins to emerge within those simple mechanics.  Peel the onion back:
Super 7 HD for iPad is a pretty simple path-drawing game with some nice twists. Rounded polygons come on the screen, each with a number and a corresponding color, and bounce around the screen. If they collide, they form a new polygon with the sum of the numbers on it. The player's job is to draw lines between polygons to form sevens. If two shapes collide that add up to more than seven, the game is over.

The game's difficulty scales well and smoothly. At first, pairs come on that match with each other. Later, the pairs that match are staggered across waves. Then there aren't waves, the shapes just enter in rapid sequence. Then they're back to coming in sets, but with negative numbers, and the cycle repeats with the additional complexity. In the parts I've reached, I've seen multipliers, dividers, and sign changers. A final element of the challenge is there throughout the game: the more shapes go into a sum, the larger the sum shape is, which makes it easier to collide with, and more likely to end the game.

A big part of the game's challenge and its replayability comes from it's scoring structure. Pairs that add up to seven score only one point. You score an extra point for every shape that contributes to a sum beyond two -- so if you make a seven out of seven 1s, you score 6 points. A 3 and a 4 together score only 1. The game doesn't explain that well in its tutorial, so it took me a while to figure out why I scored better in some games. Once i got that, though, the game became much deeper. That's a strong incentive to try to keep additional shapes on the board, hoping to make sums of as many shapes as possible; but shapes that linger with lots of contributors get very large. Meanwhile, the game gets more difficult either over time or over basic score, so you really want to score well quickly, before it gets harder to do so.

I really like mechanics like that, which are a simple press-your-luck system, but where almost all of the risk is self-incurred and the luck you're pressing is largely determined by your skill as a player. Many difficulty systems are entirely determined by luck, or the computer, or the computer's luck. Systems which let the player determine the difficulty are elegant; systems which then in cent the player to continually struggle against their own boundaries are even more elegant.

Being a system like that, Super 7 is a game in which achievements work well. I'm not keen on achievement systems that merely lie alongside gameplay, irrelevant or even distracting to the main gameplay. But since the difficulty mechanics of Super 7 are about the challenges that you assign yourself, achievements are a natural fit and can lead you to explore the strategic space in a way that contributes to your gameplay. They are exercises you can assign yourself to get better at what the game is about. In fact, I think that I figured out the scoring system in order to pursue an achievement!

Super 7 HD makes for a good Mechanic's Report because it's central systems are so elegant, and the rest of the game so simple. The main game and interaction is fun; on top of that, there are complex systems that work against each other and are well-balanced. It's a good design!

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