In the pithy world of Twitter, you can only speak in short sentences– but as often as you like. This constant stream of abbreviated information is a novel idea for a social network, and it could be used effectively as a unique form of gameplay design. But Tweet Land turns Twitter’s stream-of-consciousness into a firehose, dousing you with obstacles generated by users.
Imagine if Super Mario Bros wasn’t a prefabricated experience, but was instead a random assortment of millions of online users shouting out words like “goomba”, “coin”, or “mushroom”. You would quickly become overwhelmed, and the experience probably wouldn’t be as memorable as one well-designed, play-tested, and perfected level.
Did someone say “zombies”?
Tweet Land uses this approach in a driving game context. In each of the game’s 24 levels, you have to survive a drive from left to right. Not only is traffic a nightmare, but as you play, new obstacles are generated by Twitter keywords. Any mention online of the word “terrorist” will send a car-bomber after your vehicle, and the word “health” will make a life-saving health pack appear. News sites that concentrate on topics like health care and terrorism seem to generate the most consistent obstacles in the game.
The thrill of the game is in unlocking new crowdsourced obstacles, like Godzilla, UFOs, and Mother Monster (a giant Lady Gaga shoe). However, the gameplay itself can feel unpredictable and haphazard. Levels are only as hard and easy as the Twitterverse will allow. For your part, you’ll frantically be avoiding bad tweets and picking up good tweets without much time to think.
Even though it’s insanely fast-paced, Tweet Land is still a great game to show off to casual players. It uses a stylish retro art style, and there are wonderful graphical flourishes, like a rainbow that streams behind your car when you’re at full health. At the end of each drive, you can view the tweets that influenced your level, but you won’t be able to click through in-game to view them on Twitter.
Tweet Land has a brilliant concept and several clever details, but the random nature of each level’s design make it a bit too difficult. And while you’ll have new obstacles and power-ups introduced constantly, the core mechanics of swerving through traffic never change. The developers should take a page from Monster Trucks Nitro 2, and spice up the track design as well as the obstacles.
Like Twitter itself, Tweet Land is a novelty with wide appeal. But unlike Twitter, we can’t see Tweet Land having a seismic impact in today’s modern world (even just the iOS gaming sector). Tweet Land is simply a fun, randomized drive through strangers’ tweets, but it’s got potential to become more than that eventually.