Papa Pear Saga is a new Facebook release from King, currently in open beta and available for everyone to play on the social network. The new game’s launch coincides with King’s 10-year anniversary and rebranding from King.com to just King. It’s also set to hit iOS and Android mobile devices “soon.”
Papa Pear Saga is a new take on King’s previous Web-based game Papa Pear, itself inspired by Japanese pachinko mechanics. The game also has more than a few similarities to PopCap’s popular casual game Peggle, and this is firmly in keeping with King’s track record of taking well-established, familiar casual game mechanics (match-3 in Candy Crush Saga, bubble shooting in Bubble Witch Saga and so on) and putting their own twist on them. Adopting this approach rather than creating completely original, potentially complex mechanics gives King’s games a strong sense of “pick up and play” immediacy which has doubtless contributed considerably to the strong success of titles such as Candy Crush Saga, which is currently the top game on Facebook.
The basic mechanics of Papa Pear Saga involve aiming a cannon at the top of the screen using the mouse, then firing out objects (here crash helmet-wearing pears) which subsequently bounce off an arrangement of pegs on their way down the screen. The bottom of the screen houses several buckets, and dropping the pears into the buckets scores points, as does bouncing off pegs. Other bonuses are provided for special moves such as lots of bounces in rapid succession or eliminating all of a particular type of peg off the screen, and occasionally special pegs appear that confer benefits ranging from increasing the score multiplier to making the bouncing pears increase in size. In a slight twist on Peggle’s formula, it’s possible to fire up to three pears at once instead of just one, and certain special pegs cause additional pears to appear.
Peggle’s basic formula simply required the player to eliminate all of a particular type of peg from the level, but Papa Pear Saga features several different objectives, much like Candy Crush Saga built on the basic formula of Bejeweled and added different level types. Players will divide their time between levels where they must land at least one pear in each of the buckets at the bottom of the screen, levels where they must cause several special “fruit” objects to fall into one of the buckets at the bottom of the screen by clearing a path for them, and levels where they must clear a certain number of a visually-distinct type of peg from the screen. In the latter case, rather than being randomly scattered around the level as in Peggle, the pegs to be eliminated are always in the same position.
The game monetizes through sales of booster items. Unlike many other Facebook games, these may only be acquired via in-app purchase — there is no currency system in the game at all, meaning that those who play for free will not be able to use boosters in the same way, though the effects of boosters also appear as the special pegs that appear throughout the levels. Players may also pay to acquire extra pears if they fail a level, or pay to restore their lives if they run out. Much like in King’s other games, lives are only lost if the player fails to complete all of the objectives of a level (which usually include a specific objective and scoring enough points to earn at least one “star”) meaning that non-paying players may continue playing for as long as they are skilled — though the game does include occasional, sudden difficulty spikes at times, clearly intended to rob the player of their lives a little more quickly than usual. This is a pattern that Candy Crush Saga also followed, and it’s a little jarring to suddenly come across a level that is significantly more difficult than the previous ones without warning. That said, these more challenging levels are never unfair — they’re simply a bit more difficult, which helps keep players on their toes.
Social features for the game include the world map tracking players’ friends progress as well as their own, plus the invitation to brag to friends when beating their high score or passing them on the map. Each level also has a leaderboard for friends to compete against one another, and there are occasional friend gates to continue — though the first of these is not encountered for 30 levels.
Papa Pear Saga is a fun, accessible game, but it doesn’t feel quite as “polished” as some of King’s other titles. The background audio and music in particular is recorded at a very low sample rate, which gives the game a very “lo-fi” sound that isn’t really in keeping with its smoothly-animating, well-drawn graphics. The physics model used in the game is also a little questionable at times — if a pear or fruit finds itself in a position where it is just rolling very slowly, the physics engine will simply cause it to “jump” up in the air in a very jarring, unrealistic manner. It’s understandable why this has been implemented — to help prevent objects getting “stuck” — but there was probably a more elegant solution to this problem. Peggle’s means of getting around this was to simply cause the objects that were holding the ball in place to disappear immediately rather than waiting until the ball had fallen off the bottom of the screen — while this is still technically bending the rules of the game to prevent an unwinnable situation, it’s a little more “subtle” than the approach adopted by Papa Pear Saga.
These few issues aside, Papa Pear Saga is a pretty good game. It’s not King’s best work by a long shot, but with the company’s skill at user acquisition and retention it’s likely to be a strong success, particularly among those looking for something new to play from the developer.
You can follow Papa Pear Saga’s progress with AppData, our tracking service for social games and developers.
King does Peggle — perhaps not the company’s best game to date, but a solid addition to its lineup.