Ruby Blast on Facebook: Mining the dopamine center for all it's worth
It's known that addictive games (namely casino games or other forms of gambling) can trigger dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens--the "pleasure center" of the brain--much like addictive drugs. Ruby Blast, the newest arcade Facebook game from Zynga, walks a dangerously thin line between "engrossing" and "addictive". And developer Zynga Seattle has done everything in its power to take full advantage.
That's a great thing for Zynga, but a potentially terrible reality for your bank account. You see, each round of Ruby Blast is ruled by an almost criminal 40-second time limit. Of course, skilled players could skirt past this almost indefinitely by digging at the bottom of the play field to clear the dirt along a defined line, adding anywhere from 10 to 20 seconds to the clock each time.
As players progress through the game, they'll earn rubies, which equate to experience points, basically. When a player reaches a new level, chances are he or she will unlock a new feature, like a power-up or friend gems. These make it invariably easier to last longer during each round, each of which costs five energy points to play. Like any decent Facebook game, this energy refills over time.
But here's the kicker: Say you're on a streak--you're just about to crush your friend's 1 million point-plus high score--and you run out of time. Ruby, the game's protagonist and narrator, is more than willing to give a few extra seconds to make that happen ... for a price. For anywhere from five to 10 Blast Cash, the paid currency in Ruby Blast, you can keep on digging. Yes, even this writer put up five of the 15 Blast Cash players are handed for free to start with. When you're sucked into the catharsis of clicking gems furiously to sights and sounds of flashy explosions and falling stars, you'll probably do the same. Dare we say you might even enter that credit card information.
Unfortunately, Ruby Blast is light on the social features. Friend gems that send drills across rows of dirt from time to time are an interesting feature, but could have easily been just another power-up. It should come as no surprise that Zynga Seattle threw in the classic weekly leader boards, but a it made point of dangling your friends' scores in front of you. It's another unabashed play at getting you to pay up, and we'd be lying if we said it wasn't going to work.
Again, Ruby Blast walks on a fine line and knows it all too well. Match-three games are nothing new, Zynga even felt the need to point out as much during a preview of the game. But what makes this take on the genre (or more specifically, the Diamond Mine play mode of Bejeweled 3) different from the rest isn't just its beautiful visuals and iconic sounds. It's that, with only its second try, Zynga has seemingly mastered what Ruby Blast's established competitors have come so close to. And all it took was what helped arcades boom in the '80s and early '90s: a "Continue?" button.
Click here to play Ruby Blast on Facebook Now >
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