Have you ever found a game you just loved, and later found out that it actually began as a Public Service Announcement? Well, me neither, at least until I ran into Dumb Ways To Die. There are a lot of amazing Android games out there, but none with a story quite like this. What began as a simple YouTube video quickly went viral thanks to its unorthodox method of talking about train safety. Developed by the folks at McCann Erickson, the campaign was an attempt to prevent accidental deaths by the Metro Train system in Melbourne, Australia. After its viral success, however, the unfortunate characters from the video were given an iOS game and then an Android game. I’ll be reviewing the Android game today, but it’s identical to its iOS counterpart.
This is a game that combines Flappy Bird-like addictiveness with the rapid mini game style of old favourites like WarioWare: Touched! for the Nintendo DS. If any of you remember the early days of the DS, Nintendo was all for these adorable little mini games that took advantage of the touch screen on the DS, and Dumb Ways To Die feels very reminiscent of that.
Your train station starts out with only one character, but the more you play, the more characters will arrive. The original video will also be unlocked after just a few games.
When the games start, they can last up to 10 seconds, giving you oodles of time to complete the simple tasks they give you. The black bar along the top shows how fast your time is running out.
Some mini-games actually relate to trains, like the one shown above. If you fail to draw all the strings from the balloons to his hand, the little blue guy will chase his untethered balloons onto the tracks and be hit by a train.
The lesson here? Don’t chase your balloons out onto the train tracks!
With most of the games, though, you’d be hard pressed to find a valuable life lesson. Take the above game for example, which involves swiping away piranhas from chomping on the pink guy’s private parts. (Hint: you can hold your finger on the screen and simply drag it around; any piranhas that touch it will go flying away.)
Life lesson? Um, don’t jump into piranha infested waters?
Then there are games like this one: Don’t press the red button. You literally just have to not press the red button. Tempting, I know, but it is one of the easier games, even as they begin to speed up.
And, oh boy, will they speed up.
What started off as a leisurely 10 seconds will quickly accelerate into 5 seconds, and then 2 seconds, and then you die. You get three lives, and after losing the third, it’s game over. I only managed to make it to 2097 points.
Some games, while entertaining and difficult, fall prey to having only a finite number of levels. The puzzle game Lazors is a perfect example of this, but Dumb Ways To Die goes the (technically) endless route by simply speeding everything up until you’re simply overwhelmed. Nothing gets your heart beating faster than knowing you have to recognise the situation and react in a split second!
Sound, Ads, And Options
This is probably a game better played muted. Repetitive, generic music fills the homescreen and the screens in between mini games. In the games, appropriate sound effects are added, but after playing for a while, they’ll get irritating quickly.
The app, while free, is ad-supported. After every game, you’ll get a video ad that engulfs your screen, but thankfully you can skip it after a few seconds. A photo ad will then pop up, but you can exit it immediately.
In the options menu from the homescreen, you’ll find options to mute the sound (thankfully) as well as the option to turn off the airplane game. Why would you want to do that, you ask? Well, sometimes the microphone on your device won’t register properly and you can’t blow into it to keep the plane afloat, or maybe you just don’t wanna be blowing on your phone in public.
On my Galaxy S3, the airplane game didn’t work at all, so this small feature to turn off that game was a life saver. But if it works on your device, and you don’t have whatever phobia it is that prevents folks from blowing on their smartphone in public, then by all means, keep it enabled.
I’ve got to hand it to the advertisers over at McCann for creating such an entertaining safety-oriented social media campaign. The success of the Dumb Ways To Die video and this game can only help to get people more aware of their surroundings the next time they’re at the train station.