Awesome Spend-Capped Mobile Games, Installment 3

Fresh Pick – Pktball


Release Date: 04/06/2016

Spend Cap: $23.76 (24 skins available at $0.99 each)

Monetization Model: Free-to-start. Gameplay is totally unlimited. You can purchase a limited set of new skins for a direct dollar amount. No virtual currency or gacha packs are sold. There is a crane machine mini-game, but you cannot use real money to participate in it.

Are there Ads? Yes, there are opt-in ads that you can watch to get an extra ball.

Is an internet connection required? No! This game cannot be sunset. Your purchases are safe.

MFI Controller support? No, but you won’t miss it.

Who made it? Laser Dog

Genre: Arcade sports

Content: It’s Air Hockey, taken to a whole new level of fun and intensity.


Awesome Innovation: The game’s beauty is in its simplicity. Adding unique characters and Mario Kart-styled power ups makes the gameplay feel varied enough to stay interesting long term. Sessions are short enough to make it hard to stop playing once you get close to toppling a friend’s high score.

For core gamers who love: Pong, Breakout, Akranoid

Final Thoughts: I remember how free-to-play was initially described to me, back in 2009: It’s the most democratic way to distribute a game! The people who don’t like a game won’t have to spend a dime. Players who stick around for a few sessions might spend a few bucks. A handful of folks will spend the equivalent of a premium game purchase, or maybe even a little bit more. Everyone wins!

Well, after Forbes posted that the top-ranked player in Clash Royale spent $18,000 IN THE FIRST MONTH to stay on top, the initial description of the F2P model now seems painfully naïve.  Impulse control tests, paying to win, social pressure, and gambling mechanics drive a lot of the spending in free-to-play mobile now.

But that’s not all that’s out there. If you’re willing to dig, you’ll find games that deliver on the very type of free-to-play that was described to me seven years ago. Pktball works exactly this way. Everyone gets a totally unrestricted play experience. If you don’t like it, you can bounce right away at no cost… and leaderboards show plenty of people I know did just that. I’ve been playing long-term, and I’ve gotten more than 10 hours of fun out of it over the course of three months. I’ve spent about $10 on skins. I like the visual changes the purchases make, and it makes me happy to support a talented team that believes in the spend-capped model. If you’re in love with the game, you can spend more on Pktball than you would any premium game in the store – but your spending still won’t go over $25. THIS is free-to-play working in the customer’s favor.

Grade: B+

Legendary Pick: Leo’s Fortune


Release Date: 04/23/14

Spend Cap: $0.99

Monetization Model: Premium. The complete game is $0.99! One of the greatest handheld games ever made, for less than a buck!

Are there Ads? No.

Is an internet connection required? No! If you hold onto your phone, you can pass the game down to your kids, even if they’re ten years away from being born – and you should.

MFI Controller support? Yes, and it makes an awesome game perfect.


Who made it? 1337 & Senri LLC

Genre: Action-platform.

Content: 24 stages.


Awesome Innovation: The game’s puffball protagonist weighs next to nothing, which allows him to float and cheat the laws of gravity. The developers put this flexibility to the test with levels that rival Super Mario Word in inventiveness.

For core gamers who love: Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog, Rolando

Final Thoughts: Lara Croft Go is my favorite game on the iPhone. This one is a very, very close second. It’s beautiful – the art looks like something out of a Pixar movie. It feels great in touch mode – the developers recognize that the vast majority of players will not be using a controller, so they paced the experience accordingly, and ensured that your fingers never get in the way of the action. It’s a masterclass in 2D action platforming for more casual players. For me, it was breezy and fun. For my daughter, it’s accessible in a way that Super Mario 3D Land and even Kirby Triple Trouble are not. And it feels hand-crafted, from a team who was clearly putting quality above all other considerations. This is not a ‘data-driven’ game…. it’s design-driven, through and through.

Grade: A+ (with MFI controller), A (with touch control)


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