It takes considerable effort to botch a management strategy game on mobile, but Cheerdealers finds a way with Distrust, one of the worst mobile ports in a while.
This was supposed to be a review of Distrust, the well received strategy-survival indie spiritual successor to James Cameron’s The Thing. It’s a genuinely neat game that melds ideas from the likes of Don’t Starve with a real-time management layer. You guide the last two to three survivors of a helicopter crash to investigate a seemingly abandoned military research base in the arctic and swiftly learn that things are awry. So far, so wonderfully creepy. That is, if you can actually manage to play it proper on your phone. You see, Distrust first came out on PC, and my goodness does it show because there seems to be absolutely no effort made to work with the new platform.
Icons are the size of ants, and often times you won't even know what they do until after pressing them.
Icons are the size of ants, and often times you won’t even know what they do until after pressing them. Distrust‘s free tutorial level certainly helps you get a feel for what all might be experienced, but the game itself seems to expect you’d be able to drag a mouse cursor over every icon to be informed what functions they serve. Also, because every action is so hard to make out, regardless of if you use the zoom function or not, you’ll often find yourself sending commands you never intended. Just swapping between your party can be an utter nightmare of one thinking you’re telling them to cancel their current task while you were just intending to check in on the other while they were doing something.
It's not that the gameplay itself is bad, but this mishandling makes a joke of ever playing this game on mobile.
Now, you might think maybe if you hold down your one finger, a small cursor might appear, or a magnifying glass might make it easier to choose and decide, but you’d be wrong. In fact, the only reasonable way to even move around the map to survey everything is to open the minimap and tap in there to quickly jump wherever you need to be looking. This leads to an extremely tedious experience trying to get your team to execute your plan properly. It’s not that the gameplay itself is bad, but this mishandling makes a joke of ever playing this game on mobile. I never experienced combat, but I have to imagine it plays even worse if basic exploration is any indication.
Worse still, as I said, while there is a free tutorial, the actual meat of the game is locked off. In fact, a lot of it is obfuscated with microtransactions, and while I haven’t played the PC port, you can be pretty certain it’s not nearly this bad on there. I understand the need to monetize your game – developers need to eat too – but the main hook of the game hasn’t even been fully introduced yet. You don’t end your demo before the exciting thing happens; it should end right as things are getting good. Then there’s incentive to put down the few dollars to see more. Combine this abrupt cutoff with the lackluster controls, and I can think of few worse introductions a game could offer to prospective buyers. It feels like this port was handled with little to no research or quality assurance, which shouldn’t be the case given how well it’s been received on PC.
You can't just slap a game on mobile, something developer Cheerdealers needs to understand.
One can only hope Distrust gets its act together in the future, but first impressions are everything. Being free-to-start might net it plenty downloads, but that doesn’t mean half as many players are going to stick around. You can’t just slap a game on mobile, something developer Cheerdealers needs to understand if they intend to make a place for themselves on the appstore.