“Happy Glass” an addicting ad-stuffed tragedy of a game

Some will look at a glass as being half-full. Others will see it as being half-empty. For the mobile puzzle game “Happy Glass,” neither really matter, as its water is polluted by pop ups ads and premium memberships.

I want to preface this by the fact that I like Lion Studio’s 2018 free-to-play puzzle game “Happy Glass” purely from the perspective of it as a game. In fact, had it been published on a traditional gaming platform like the Nintendo eShop, where monetization practices are better regulated, I would absolutely love it.

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The game is simple, yet it can get convoluted rather quickly.

The game follows a simple concept: In each level of the game, the player must find a way to fill an empty glass with water by drawing lines on the screen that function as solid objects affected by gravity, with each level featuring at least one water source. You have a drawing meter, which limits how much you can draw, to keep the game balanced. More often than not, the puzzles involve the player drawing rudimentary bridges and other objects to connect the glass with the flow of water, with later levels introducing orange objects that move with the flow of gravity, often getting in the way of the glass and the flow of water, as well as heated red objects that evaporate instantly any water it touches.

It’s a fun game that you can play on the go, and has a lot of room for creative solutions.

If this was a Nintendo eShop game, my summary of the game would end there, but unfortunately “Happy Glass” was published on Android/Apple iOS, which means that whatever standards (or lack thereof) the game wants to follow, it can.

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Definitely deserves to cost more than Netflix. Right?

Looking at the game’s reviews on the app store, they all sing the same main criticism: The game simply has too many ads, and it’s well-earned, though, I can understand why they’re there. Free-to-play games need to make their money somewhere to continue operating, with many straddling the line of what they can get away with with fake, meaningless currencies the player can purchase for real money in order to unlock certain features, mostly aesthetic ones, but the worst type of games in this genre allow the player’s bank account to affect game play, and “Happy Glass” falls into the latter category, as it psychologically manipulates the player into buying a subscription and viewing ads.

To the game’s credit, it does feature instant respawns after each failed puzzle attempt, somewhere Lion could have easily stuffed with ads, though it is noteworthy that that would have certainly killed off the game’s playerbase. A smartphone app like this lives or dies off of how fast and accessible its puzzles are, and if more than half of the game’s experience is waiting through an ad, players will drop it.

With that being said, the game wants to have its cake and eat it too, employing two competing monetization strategies: Ads in between successfully completed levels, and optional ads the players can watch in exchange for level hints, which the game heavily pushes, starting out the player with 3 free hints to get them used to the system, which it never refreshes. Players can also watch optional ads to boost the score they get on levels — each level has a maximum of 3 stars you can get, the overall amount of which is used to unlock future levels. If you get 2/3 stars on a level you can boost it to a 3/3, in exchange for sitting through a unskippable 30 second ad, many of which are dishonest and interactive.

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Easily the game’s most frustrating and common ad, it ensured that I will never download “Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire.”

This affects the game’s balancing, with challenging puzzles present throughout one’s progression of the game solely to milk players for advertising money, with certain puzzles so convoluted that it is almost impossible to get a 3/3 on them all naturally, and it is disappointing that the game does not restock its free hints in any of its premium membership subscriptions that it thinks it has any place selling. Though there are some bundles outside of its regular subscriptions, the game pushes 3 main memberships: a $8 weekly subscription, a $20 monthly subscription and a $100 yearly subscription. What these subscriptions include: “non-reward” ads removed, 2 daily free coins (the game’s fake currency), 150 free daily free coins (seems to compete with the last perk) and a 30% bonus on all coins earned through the game’s minigames outside the main game, which we’ll get to later.

That’s a lot of money to charge for a silly cup-filling game. More than a Netflix subscription, in fact. It doesn’t even include any free skins, as even premium players will have to save up, as most skins are at least 1,000 coins. The sheer greed that it takes to come up with a model like this is astonishing and shameful.

This all makes “Happy Glass” more like a scam relying on players to get psychologically addicted to it than a legitimate game that anyone should feel comfortable letting their children play, but I digress. Just keep your credit card out of it.

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One of the game’s most dishonest ads. It feigns an interactable demo when in fact touching anything but the small x in the top right corner will redirect you to the game’s download page.

The game is perfectly ok, but loses major points for its unbalanced gameplay, over monetization and absolutely garbage subscriptions. The game should have relied either on their ads in exchange for hints system or ads in between levels model, because their current monetization model makes the game worse for players and advertisers, as the game ends up cycling through a very small pool of ads available to the game. 

The one it plays for “Final Fantasy XV”‘s app is particularly bad and low quality, and it plays almost every other time you need a hint. Ads are so obnoxious in “Happy Glass” that they make me actively not want to buy or download the products advertised.

Advertisers take note: Ads on apps like “Happy Glass” aren’t helping your business; they might be actively hurting them.

As for “Happy Glass”, this is one glass of water better dumped in the sink than consumed by any human being. Puzzle away at your own risk.

Happy Glass gets a 4 out of 10.

The minigames: There are a few minigames in “Happy Glass,” which is ironic because “Happy Glass” itself is little more than an extended minigame. They are as follows:
  • Don’t spill: Remove orange blocks one by one from a pile Jenga-style to safely get the full glass at the top to the bottom with no spillage.
  • Flippy Glass: Flip a full, covered glass as many times as you can to get coins. A great way to spam up your fake money wallet to buy skins.
  • Precise: Fill various shaped glasses with water, exactly with no spillage. Hold the screen to let the water flow from its source and let go to cut it off.

The minigames do not make up for any shortcomings of the main game, and are only worth bringing up as an afterthought. Hence why they’re in this portion of the review.

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