Alphabear 2’s Improvements Mauled by Monetization

I liked Alphabear. It had a few flaws, but the game was good and it had plenty of charm. So I was looking forward to Alphabear 2. The sequel has some nice improvements, so why do I like it less?

The basic game is the same. You’re given a grid with a few letters exposed, and use some of those letters to make a word. The word scores points, and each letter you use uncovers the hidden letters next to it. The board grows as you make words.

Each word scores points, and you get bonuses and special powers based on which bears you bring to the level. In the original Alphabear, the bears had a cooldown forcing you to rotate through different (and often less than ideal) combinations of bears. Alphabear 2 drops this requirement, which is a welcome change. Any change that lets me use my Owlbear more often is a good change!

Alphabear 2 also adds a story line, a cheeky riff on Back to the Future that stays just this side of the wink – wink – nudge – nudge – not violating intellectual property law line. The story is slight, but the jokes are funny.

The snapshot feature is back, too. Seeing and sharing mad libs quotes of the words you made during the level is still silly fun.

So What’s Wrong with Alphabear 2?

Alphabear 2 kept the good stuff in the first game and improved on it. But it’s hard to enjoy the good stuff under a blizzard of in-game ads. Levels take only a minute to play, and almost every level is followed by an unskippable 30 second ad.

This shouldn’t bother me as much as it does. Most of the games I’ve worked on rely on advertising as an important revenue source. It often delivers half of the total revenue for the game. That said, most games I’ve worked on offer the choice of viewing the ad, with a benefit for clicking “Watch”.

Alphabear 2 does a little of this, and that’s fine. But the constant between-level ads is pushing it. I haven’t yet decided whether to pay $4.99 to remove the ads or just delete the app. But it’s all too likely to be the latter. Maybe Alphabear 3 will get the balance between gameplay and monetization right.