Ruby Skies mobile game review

Ruby Skies is a new mobile social game from Pot Farm creators East Side Games, published by 6waves. It’s available now in the Canadian and Korean App Stores as a free Universal download.

Ruby Skies casts players in the role of a lazy Cupid tasked with bringing happiness to the world. For some reason, Cupid decides to fixate on a pair of airship-piloting explorers and tags along with them as they explore various islands and recover treasures. Gameplay involves two main components: exploration and relationship-building.

The exploration aspect consists of spending energy to tap on partially-transparent clouds, which causes them to disappear and rewards to pop out — usually soft currency and experience points. Occasionally the player will reveal an amusing scenery element or animal, or sometimes a larger building which carries a “gift box.” Contained within the gift boxes are various treasures which make up a wide array of different collections, each of which has particular significance to one of the game’s main characters, who are gradually discovered through exploration. Players will also occasionally discover treasure spinners or bonus slot machine tokens — the former brings up a “wheel of fortune”-style game in which players can score various treasures, while the latter offers the potential for experience, energy and currency boosters. Both may be played even when the player has not found the relevant items to trigger them — spinners cost hard currency, while the slot machine costs soft currency.

When the player has completed a collection of five treasures — more a matter of luck than anything else, though changing the airship’s “captain” will supposedly ensure that their collections come up more often — they are prompted to give the collection to one of the other characters, regardless of gender or even species. This builds their relationship with one another, represented by a five-heart meter. The higher the number of hearts, the more the pair like each other, with five hearts representing a romantic relationship. If the player chooses to log in to Facebook, they may also create relationships with their Facebook friends. The total number of hearts — or the world’s “happiness level” — is tracked on screen at all times, giving players an idea of how well they are doing.

East Side Games memorably described the game’s aesthetic as “waffles for the eyes” on several occasions (including, oddly, misattributing the quote to Inside Social Games on the title’s App Store page) and it certainly has a distinctive, pleasantly pastel-colored look — though resolution inconsistencies in the game’s interface leave quite a few aspects looking rather pixelated and blurry on Retina display devices — compare the screenshot above to the one below, for example. The backing music, meanwhile, is calming and relaxing, and the various beeps and burbles that emanate as the player collects treasures are inherently satisfying.

But this unfortunately doesn’t distract from the fact that the actual game itself is very disappointing. All the base gameplay consists of is tapping on clouds until treasures pop out. The player is given very little reason to care about the characters they are supposed to be matching up with one another beyond an initial dialog sequence and another when their relationship is leveled up, and it’s easy to forget that the player is supposed to be playing as the “Cupid” character rather than the band of treasure hunters. It’s mostly a game of chance — a fact emphasized by the regular appearance of the “spinner” and “slots” minigames — with no real depth. Many of the Game Center achievements nudge players a little too forcefully in the direction of the game’s monetization, too — there are achievements for purchasing energy, soft and hard currency one, five and ten times, for example, meaning that completionists will not be able to fill their achievement list without spending a small but significant amount of money on the game.