So: Alphabear 2. It had been a while since the original Alphabear, I enjoyed it, so I might as well revisit it?

And the gameplay mechanics are the same, and are pleasant. The only difference I noticed there was my reaction to them: I was hoping I could play Alphabear 2 while wandering around and listening to podcasts, but it tickles the verbal part of my brain too much, so that didn’t work too well. (Which would have been the same with the original, of course, I guess I’d just played it more at home?)


But then there’s everything that surrounds the core gameplay. You go through this story mode, accumulating bears; there’s a gatcha mechanic to level them up and to collect new ones, and a separate school mechanic to level them up in a slow but more predictable way. And, at some point, I hit the wall on the story mode: my bears weren’t high enough level.

Which highlighted the absurdity of leveling mechanics: it’s not like I wasn’t playing well enough in some absolute sense, it’s just that my bears didn’t have high enough numbers to match the numbers on the curve they’d put for the story mode. And, of course, a battle between underlying numbers is something that’s there in pretty much every RPG; the differences here are that the curves are designed to make you wait a lot instead of make you feel better and better, and there’s not enough story and other variety to pull you along in the face of numerical annoyances.


The thing is, if all that I cared about was the mechanics, the game would be fine: there are more than enough non-story challenges in the game to keep me entertained if that had been what I’d wanted to spend time on? And it’s not like I gave up on the game immediately; but, ultimately, I don’t like the core mechanic enough to really immerse myself in it, and the leveling curve left a bad taste in my mouth.

Not a surprise; it’s what free-to-play games do, even ones that have a “pay to remove the ads” option: they’re not about one-time payments. And that generally leads to gameplay decisions that make me like the game a little less.

Though there’s the underlying issue here of how exposed the core mechanic is: I actually see that as a generally good thing, but it makes me appreciate games that have an even more solid core mechanic. Maybe Alphabear is that for some people, but for me, even setting aside the free-to-play issues, it turned out that I’d really rather fill those free moments by playing Flipflop Solitaire

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