Developer: S! Games Pty Ltd.
Publisher: S! Games Pty Ltd.
Played on: Android
Release Date: June 1st, 2016
Time Played: ~30 minutes
Paid: $0 (Free to play)
“Don’t step on a crack, or you’ll fall and break your back.”
Who knew that such a simple, silly, and utterly nonsensical children’s rhyme could turn into such a fun, addictive mobile game? Certainly not I, who only installed Steppy Pants because it showed up on the Google Play Store one day for me and I vaguely recalled hearing about it somewhere from someone who had good things to say about it. The next thing I knew, it was 15 minutes later, and I was trying (and failing miserably) to keep from screaming at my phone in a giddy rage (that’s a thing now) so as to not distract my girlfriend from her studying.
Everything about Steppy Pants is simplistic, but not in a detrimental way. Rather, it manages to be incredibly accessible due to its simplicity. The premise is that you play as a girl (or guy) who needs to walk down the street without stepping on any pavement cracks. Piece of cake, right? Well, kind of. The catch is that you are only able to control your character by tapping and holding on the screen. As soon as you touch the screen, your character raises their foot, and the longer you hold, the longer their stride ends up being. Hold too long, and they’ll do the splits, break their legs, and you’ll lose. Just do a short tap, and you’ll barely move. Timing is key as you repeatedly tap, hold, and release to step along the sidewalk. And then the game starts throwing obstacles your way. First, there are just uniformly-spaced pavement cracks. Then the spacing becomes more erratic, forcing you sometimes to aim for a tiny square of “safe” pavement. And then there’s TNT planted on the sidewalk. Plus, if you manage to hit consecutive pieces of pavement, you can score bonus points. Before you know it, the game has turned into a frantic tapping spree as you hope and pray that your feet will land where you want them to.As you stroll down the street, you can pick up coins that can be spent to unlock character customization options (more on those later), and can also accept side quests. The only one of these I ever did just required me to take a certain number of steps, but I’d imagine that there’s some variety on offer. Again, my reward for completing this was more coins. The problem with the side quests is that when the quest givers appear on the side of the street, you need to tap on them, view the quest information, and accept the quest. However, the game doesn’t pause while you do this; as such, if you have a combo going when you want to accept a quest, you can probably kiss it goodbye.
During my time with the game, I mostly played on the Steppy Street level, though there are others available. One was a Halloween-themed stage, where spider webs cause you to get stuck frequently and you’re forced to keep up your pace to evade a pursuing monster. The other one was an unlockable stage, but due to time constraints and my general suckage at the game, I was unable to unlock it. The thing that I found interesting about the Steppy Street level was the level design and progression. While it seemed that the overall level may have been randomly-generated, its individual sections were not. What this meant was that if there was a section I was stuck on, I could actually practice it until I was able to clear it. Also, it gets rid of the problem that many games that use “full randomness” run into, where sometimes you just end up with “bad runs”; there are few things more frustrating than feeling like a game is totally working against you just because of pure chance. Finally, the game avoids things getting too repetitive by providing frequent checkpoints. These make it so that even though your score gets reset when you die, your progress down the street does not, and you can continue practicing a new section without having to go through the previous areas.When you’re not busy with your demented march down the street, there are numerous unlockable customization options available. You can customize your avatar with a variety of different heads, clothes, and shoes. However, here’s where the monetization options in the game come in. Each outfit can be unlocked by spending money. It’s $3.79 for a full outfit (head, body, and legs), and the price goes down if you’ve already unlocked some of the components. Personally, I find this to be a bit excessive for a character skin, but okay. I guess it’s not THAT bad. Honestly, my biggest problem with it is how the skins are advertised. As you play the game, characters in different outfits will appear on the side of the street, with buttons saying things like, “Want this outfit?” However, not only are they annoying distractions that take your attention away from the sidewalk, but they have the same combo killing problem as the quest givers. As a result, once I figured out what their deal was, I just started straight up ignoring them. Despite that, it was still annoying to have them as a pretty persistent advertisement for the game’s shop.
To the game’s credit, it could have gone much further with its monetization approach. When you die, a pop-up will sometimes come up offering you the chance to double your coins for the run or to continue the run from where you died. However, the cost for these is always just watching an advertisement, or paying some coins instead for the latter. There’s no option to pay real money to perform either of these actions, and if there’s an option to buy more coins, the developers certainly hid it well from me. The game does incorporate timers to periodically reward you with bonus coins (as long as you’re willing to “check in” every few hours), and you can also watch ads to get some more coins. Overall, I don’t mind this system, and while I could complain about having to watch advertisements, the fact that the ads are optional is certainly a nice touch; you can always enjoy the full game without ever seeing an advertisement come up.
Speaking of those death pop-ups, the fact that they only occasionally come up is odd and often extremely frustrating. I’ve had runs where I’ve barely made any progress and the game has asked me if I want to watch an ad to continue. On the other hand, I’ve had runs where I’m about to set a new high score, die, and am forced to restart without getting the option to continue my streak. There were even times where the game asked if I wanted to double the coins I had earned, and then informed me that I would earn 0 coins for doing so! It would be a lot nicer if these pop-ups either always appeared or never did; they add in an element of randomness that tended to just aggravate me.
As for the game’s presentation, it gets the job done. The voxel-based art style is bright and colourful, and the characters are portrayed in a suitably exaggerated and goofy manner to fit with the quirkiness of the game. The music and sound effects are nothing special, which is honestly something I can kind of appreciate in a mobile game. It’s nice to not feel like I always need a pair of headphones to shut out the world with every time I want to play a game on my phone. The menus are easy to navigate, the animations are energetic and silly, and honestly now I’m just trying to pad this paragraph so that I feel like I’m not missing anything in the game.There’s a lot right with Steppy Pants. Mobile games have never really been my cup of tea, and I find that a lot of them tend to wear out their welcome pretty fast. It’s why I generally go for the shorter, narrative experiences that actually have some sense of progression to them compared to the more repetitive, score-attack style games. However, Steppy Pants has turned out to be a pleasant surprise for me, with its humorous style, simple gameplay, and pretty decent (considering how disgusting many “free” games are these days) monetization options. Sure, I know that I haven’t played it for all that long. Regardless, I think that whether you play it for just a few minutes, or let it turn into a full-blown addiction, Steppy Pants is more than worth checking out.