Somewhere in my travels across the Internets, I found out about the iPhone game An Ultimate Coins Game by Flavio Passa, an Argentina-based developer. It seemed like a cute concept, a matching-like game based on coins. So the numismatist and iPhone time waster in me thought the 99-cents price tag was a reasonable price to give the game a try.

Starting the program yielded two issues: Sound effects cannot be controlled or muted within the program and the instructions are sparse and must be read on the programmer’s time frame. Beginning with the sound effects, the noises are not optional. Sounds cannot be turned off and the only way to control the volume is using the iPhone’s volume. The problem is that when controlling the volume on the iPhone it affects the the volume of the ringer. When I turned down the volume for the game I missed a later telephone call when the ringer was too low to hear from my jacket pocket. It would benefit the iPhone user to be able to control the sound effects as an option that would include turning off the sound effects without using the iPhone controls.

One issue with using the iPhone is reading on a small screen. In addition to the small screen, the stylized text some applications use on the small screen and trying to use the a new program can make reading a help screen difficult. While reading the instructions for An Ultimate Coins Game I was surprised when they disappeared! Rather than having a “back” button or some other mechanism to allow me to finish reading the instructions, the developer decided decided how much time I can use to read the instructions. I use the iPhone’s ability to easily take a screen shot to capture the instructions so I can read them at my own pace. This is something that the developer should fix.

Unfortunately, the instructions does not tell you everything. For example, for the collecting coins by type level, I discovered that if I was able to find three coins without moving other coins I would receive a bonus. There may be other bonus opportunities, but I could not find this documented.

Another omission is that for the levels that has piled coins, you can shake the iPhone to move the coins around. Unfortunately, shaking the iPhone does not move the coins around enough to be useful. This feature would be more useful if the coins were re-stacked or reordered on the screen.

The game has three sub-games called levels: Collecting Coins where you double-tap on the coins of the type asked for before the level begins; Tag Price where you collect coins from the pile that add up to the amount shown on the price tag; and Country Flag where you match the coin to the flag of the country it is from. All three “levels” are fun. I like the concepts in the game but there are problems. First, more than once in the Tag Price level I could not reach the tag price because the coins were not available. One time I was not provided a Canadian 5-cent piece or enough Canadian 1-cent coins in order to make the required amount. In several other cases, I was not given enough 1-cent or 1-pence coins to make the price.

Within the Country Flag level, I found several cases where two of the same flags were presented for a coin. In one case, I had to pick the right Australian flag to get credit for the coin. If I chose the wrong flag, I would be told that I was wrong.

One thing that drove me crazy is that when a level was finished, the game switched to its scoreboard instead of giving me a second to admire my work or a “continue” button to let me proceed when I am ready. I know this is a nit, but playing a game is a bit of ego boost and I want my ego boost! Also, give me the option to admire the scoreboard between levels before going to the next level. Aside from being allowed to boost my ego, this will give me a chance to pause the game in case something else needs my attention.

Although it is not documented, the game becomes more difficult with each level. But the levels are not consistent. It is possible to play two straight levels of type matching before playing a level of Price Tag. Difficulty increases with each type level and not what others would consider a level. This means I can play three progressively more difficult levels of Collecting Coins before seeing the first level Price Tag. Other times, I could see several levels before seeing one level of Country Flag. In fact, I do not remember ever seeing a level of Country Flag before playing five levels of the other two.

Two future enhancements that would help the game would be a high score keeper and a mechanism to save a game in the middle.

Overall, the issues seem to be those of a programmer not experienced with developing iPhone games. That is not a problem because we do not learn without trying. I believe that the programmer made an above average effort and hope that my comments help.

I do not regret buying this game. It has tremendous potential and can be addicting. I give the game a grade of EF-45 with hopes that future editions will improve.

NOTE (updated 3/18): I have been conversing with Flavio Passa, the program’s author, about the review. Mr. Passa agrees with most of what I wrote and will be working on an update for version 1.2. However, Mr. Passa disagrees with my review on the Tag Price level. Mr. Passa wrote to me and said:

In the Tag Price Level, there is always a way to match the tag price shown. Believe me, in fact tag price is built based on coins available during the level, it sumarizes the odd coins as they appears on the screen to build the tag price, therefore there is always a way to match the tag price amount.

It may be possible that Mr. Passa is correct but I have not been able to verify it. Regardless, it does not materially change my review. I continue to play the game and continue to believe that it has a lot of potential. I do appreciate Mr. Passa writing to me about his program and promise to re-review it following the next release.

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