For this critical play, I played Temple Run and Tiny Wings, two race games. Temple Run is set in a temple in the jungle, and the objective is to outrun a pack of gorilla/bird hybrid monsters for as long as possible as different obstacles get thrown in your way. The mechanics involve tilting the screen to run side to side and swiping left/right, up, or down, to turn, jump, and duck, respectively. Tiny Wings is set in a peaceful world full of hilly islands, and the player controls a bird with tiny wings that wants to fly and get as far as possible before nightfall. The mechanics are very simple: you hold down the screen to make the bird fall to the ground, timing it so you can use the hills to propel yourself up and “fly.”
When you break it down, the mechanical goal of these games is the same: to race against time to make it as far as possible in their respective worlds. They also both provide similar types of fun: namely, abnegation and challenge. The main differences are tied to their themes, which tell very different stories. In Temple Run, the music and setting immediately convey an intense, stressful tone. The pack of monsters adds an element of terror: you see them at the beginning, but soon get far enough away that they are out of sight, but you know they are following you. If you trip or otherwise fail to avoid an obstacle, they get closer and back in sight. The entire time, you can hear their screeches. This game really gives the illusion that you are running for your life, providing clear and convincing incentive to keep playing.
Tiny Wings uses design decisions to convey a very different tone: it is peaceful, hopeful, and lighthearted. The color scheme is mainly muted greens and blues, and the music is upbeat but subdued. When you get a big jump, the bird squeals in joy. This creates a positive reinforcement loop, in contrast to the negative reinforcement you receive when you trip in temple run (in the form of monsters coming closer). The motivation to continue playing in Tiny Wings is to accomplish goals as the bird and achieve more joy – very different from that in Temple Run.
Both these games are very fun and addictive, but they provide two completely different playing experiences, due far more to their contrasting themes than mechanics.