Summer Sports is a Free to Play game brought out by the apparently notorious developer Ketchapp. If you don’t know anything about them (I didn’t), they are famous for taking other people’s games, changing them slightly and then publishing them. Their first game, 2048, became one of the most popular games on the mobile platform back in 2014 after they took an open source game of the same name and published it themselves, for free but included advertising. Nothing illegal about it but most of us would agree that making money through advertising off of somebody else’s free intellectual property is at least a little off morally. Their other hits include Run Bird Run which was a renamed imitation of Flappy Bird and the popular Jelly Jump. Ketchapp also ran a program where independent designers could submit games to them, and, if published, get paid a percentage but to continue on with their questionable morals, they have been accused (but not proven) by multiple designers of stealing their game ideas, changing the title and claiming them to be their own. In September 2016 they were bought outright by Ubisoft so whether that will change the way they operate or not, remains to be seen.
Back to Summer Sports though and what you have is a fairly simple, timing game which you could play with one hand pretty comfortably. You control an athlete in multiple sports events in a game that is staged to work exactly like an endless runner. Your character runs automatically from left to right on the screen and on the floor, as they run passed, are boost zones that you must hit by tapping the screen as you cross them. Tap the screen exactly as you hit the centre of the boost zone and you get a perfect boost and are propelled forward at a greater speed. If you don’t hit it dead centre, you get a smaller boost and if you miss it altogether, your athlete falls and it is game over. So stage 1 may be the 100m sprint, you press start and then try to hit each boost to reach the finish line and get the quickest possible time.
As you cross the line, stage 2 starts which could be the hurdles. Now you have to tap the screen to get speed boosts but also tap again to jump the hurdles. Stage 3 may be long jump and this time you have to tap the screen to hit those speed boosts, there is a hold and release section where you build power but must release before it ends and then finally a jump at the end. In total there are 5 different disciplines to compete in which are 100m sprint, hurdles, cycling, javelin and long jump, which then just randomly rotate to keep it endless, well, until you fail due to the different variations on tapping you need to follow. These variations on tapping have added difficulty as you progress in the spacing of each boost zone, the size of each boost zone and the type you may come across next. You will need to think fast to react correctly to each one and your timing is going to need to be pretty good too. While poor timing is a fail, missing a boost zone completely isn’t an option as that is also a fail.
That is the basic game – it is good fun and it is addictive as you try to smash your previous high scores each time. You do also have the option to connect your game to Facebook so you can spam your friends with requests to play the game and then compete against their high scores too. To help you get better scores, there is also a level up system. As you play through the game normally you will occasionally get some gold coins. These gold coins are saved up until you get 150 coins at which point you can purchase a sports bag. This bag will contain one item from one of three categories which are headgear, tops and shorts. These new items increase your stats by a set amount for one or some of the different disciplines within the game though I would question what difference my new gear actually made to the character. It’s not like after multiple unlocks I started smashing my old high scores but maybe that will change as I unlock more items.
Obviously with coins comes the option to purchase them with real money. The most expensive pack is roughly £3 which gets you 3,000 coins. This isn’t actually that expensive – with each sports bag costing 150 coins that unlocks 20 items for you out of the 97 to be unlocked though you actually get enough coins in the game to not really have to purchase anything here so please don’t. You get coins for playing, you get occasional options to watch an ad for 20 coins, you get occasional prizes that give you anything from 30 to 100 free coins and you also get a bonus level every now and then called Gold Rush where you do endless hurdles, until you fail, intersected by chains of coins to collect. It was only taking me 20 minutes to get a new 150 coins though what I cannot tell is whether the sports bag increases in price the further you go, so far it doesn’t appear to.
There are a few other little niceties such as the instant publishing of images and memes from the app to Facebook if you are connected and the one button touch to take an image of your successes or failures.
So far so good but the one place it does let itself down in with ads. Now you can pay £1.99 to remove all ads which is a fair price but if you don’t you will have a constant ad running at the bottom of the screen. It isn’t overly intrusive but it is there. More annoying though is the pop up ad which appears upon failures. As this game is designed in a way that you will get short, sharp bursts of game play before failing, that means you get a lot of pop ups to coincide with the lots of failures. Still, it is a good enough game that it is worth paying the £2 to remove all ads. Just don’t spend anything on coins.
Well made and good fun. There are options to spend money on coins but they aren’t overly expensive and it is nice to see that they are not actually necessary. I would recommend paying the money to remove ads though – they are annoying and occasionally cause lag. You will have fun with the game for a while but once you have set some good high scores, it is unlikely you will want to play on much longer after that as with just a few events it quickly becomes repetitive. Plenty of short term replayability but in the long term, it will be another game that you played and enjoyed for a week or two before deleting. Summer Sports is a good example of Free to Play done fairly.