Each day, mobile game storefronts are flooded with an immense number of new apps. That makes it tough to determine what games are worth trying out and what you can swipe past without regret. In Keep Or Delete, I play a randomly selected mobile game for one hour and determine whether you should keep it around or uninstall immediately. Given the short attention span many of us have in regards to mobile titles, if a game can’t wow you within 60 minutes, odds are it never will.
LAB Escape! – Platforms: iOS/Android – Price: Free-To-Play
LAB Escape combines rogue-lite progression with Jetpack Joyride-style “how far can you go?” design. As a strange (but cute) blob creature, the goal is to travel as far to the right as possible before your rapidly dwindling life expires. Gobbling up the tofu-like enemies in your way replenishes health. However, some foes wield weapons, such as guns, that knock your health down quicker. This creates a tough by enjoyable challenge of weaving past enemy fire to reach their yummy bodies.
During runs, players periodically choose from a selection of perks to assist them. Some are staples, like an instant revive upon death or slower health deterioration. Others are special life-savers, like a screen-filling worm that devours everything and rockets you down across the screen. Though most upgrades are useful, I found the various projectile attack perks to be somewhat disadvantageous. They blow enemies into meat chunks that tend to scatter away from your hungry mouth.
A addictive feeling of “one more run” quickly arises and only grows stronger once you get a handle of the game’s strategy. Forward progress hits a bit of a wall at about 700m with a brigade of weapon/shield toting enemies that can quickly tear players to shreds. At this point, I needed to grind runs to earn money for permanent upgrades. Like most rogue-lites, repeated runs begin to feel tedious during extended sessions. Still, the slow but satisfying sense of improvement fueled my desire to keep playing. I always performed a little bit better as my skill and capabilities increased.
Some enhancements can be purchased using real money. As tough as the game gets, LAB Escape never felt like it was insurmountable without opening my wallet, at least from what I played. Between runs, the game presents the option doubling the amount of gold you just earned by watching a 30-second advertisement (typically for another game). As yucky as that sounds, I often said yes. Netting twice the gold to buy precious upgrades outweighed the cost of sitting through an easy-to-ignore ad.
Keep or Delete?
Keep! LAB Escape provides some quick thrills with serious challenge and a healthy amount of depth. It performs well, the upgrades feel meaningful, and it feels like it demands skill and patience more than (real-life) deep pockets. A ton of upgrades provide plenty to aim for in the long run, and the microtransaction model, based on what I experienced, appears harmless enough. Prolonged play may not be recommended, but LAB Escape provides twisted fun in short bursts while awaiting tardy Lyft drivers or ignoring bad dates.