Monday, May 26, 2014

Game Review: Spirit Stones (Mobile)

Spirit Stones is a mobile phone game from Korean developer Gamevil.  Salty Liver's fiance introduced this game to Conklederp and myself about a month back.  Before we get down to it, I want to say that I do not take this game seriously at all.  I find the combination of match three with a trading card game with a turn based RPG very refreshing as far as mobile phone games go, although I know there are other options our there.  The fact that the game is free too is an added bonus.  These are aspects of this game that I really like, especially the way the game mechanic is constructed, but it is how the game is executed that I would like to get into now.

Spirit Stones is a great example of all the sexist and misogynistic views that is wrong in the video game industry.  As the people at Extra Credits have said, a lot of people in the industry are awaiting the time when video games as a medium are taken, at least as seriously as the movie industry is to the rest of the world.  The games take on female sexuality is pretty bad in the fantasy adventure setting with its sadly common take on female armor.  In Spirit Stones, a card you have can be combined with another identical card to evolve into a more powerful card along the same character lines.  Often times, that evolution to a new card means that the female becomes more scantily clad.

While there are some male cards that the same effect happens to, there are clearly more female cards than there are male cards and some of those male cards depict beasts-type-creatures that appear male, but only because they have bulging muscles and no breasts.

I feel like it has taken the fantasy genre of video games a long time to get to the point where armor for women is comparable visually to that of their male counterparts.  Breastplates no longer just cover the breasts and groinal region, but all vulnerable areas as in, the entire body.  You know, like armor is supposed to do.  The visual depiction of women in this game I feel is a big step backwards.

And yet, I keep playing.  Why?

Like I mentioned earlier, the mechanics that make this game I enjoy in a mobile game.  

First off, it combines the match three aspect that sky rocketed the Candy Crush games to their current popularity.  

Secondly, there is the key aspect of the game, which is the TCG, although the "trading" part is welcomely absent.  I am unable to trade cards with Conklederp or Salty Liver if either of has a card that the other does not.  There is no way to create multiple accounts in order to overpower a single account.  Players can help out in timed mega boss battles, but rewards are in items that can be used to refill stamina or "buy cards."  

The third aspect to the game that I like is the turn based RPG battle.  Each on the continent map is made up of six individual stages which in turn have six levels.  Levels 1, 2, 3 & 5 are made up of a three round battle against a set number of monsters while levels 4 & 6 are made up of a five round battle with the last battle in the sixth stage being a boss battle.  Damage is determined by the match three puzzle and each board contains bonus "gems" that help clear out more "gems" which in turn do additional damage.  There are complications though that crop up on boards such as unmovable blocks that are unaffected by the removal of gems.  There are also objects that will hold onto and spread amongst the gems which are only removable by normal gem selection.  There are even Skull blocks that damage the players if not removed from the board in a certain amount of turns passes first.  At the end of each level, you have to fight a boss who has significantly more hit points than the previous monsters and often a reduced timer to attack (usually 2 - 3 turns).

While there are all of these positive aspects of Spirit Stones that are enjoyable, the over sexualized depiction of women overshadows the game quite a bit.  Even though I have not experienced any other overtly sexual instances in the game (innuendos and such), I cannot say that they do not exist in the game.  Maybe they were just too subtle?

During the process of writing this article I have come to the conclusion that I will be looking into other mobile games, albeit free games, to replace Spirit Stones.  Now I just have to hope that the other people I know who play this will not be too upset by my inevitable absence, but maybe I will be able to find something else for everyone else to become addicted to, because there is nothing quite like infecting your friends with video game awesomeness.

Light That Ass On Fire

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