Playtesting DECODE GLOBAL’s Get Water!

indie, playthroughs, Process Writing

Get Water! Playtest at TAG

So I was one of the many people who turned up at yesterday’s 5a7 to try out DECODE GLOBAL‘s Get Water! with the specific request that we try to break it. I had some idea of what to expect, but since they’re releasing the game trailer today (or sometime very soon), I had only seen a few stills here and there.

Maya is a young girl from India. When the town pump breaks, she’s sent on a mission to collect water in this endless runner with a lovely interface for the iPad. A few of the dangers that she has to avoid: peacocks, who will scare her into dropping the water, turtles that she might trip over, errant footballs that might knock over her jug, and of course, the very real threat of contaminated water. She is armed with boomerangs and other unlockables that will send her enemies running or improve her ability to get water.

Get Water! is a game for social change, and the developers have done an excellent job of integrating their message into the mechanics and interfaces of the game. There is room for some tweaking: for example, since Maya is school-age, pencils are the game’s currency but, for most players, the Pencil icon didn’t really scream “Store!” There is also one or two timing issues: with the warning that is supposed to appear before a peacock appears, for example, or with the occasional lag. The peacock warning shows up quite early, which leaves the player waiting to react to a threat that won’t appear for quite a while. None of this interfered with my enjoyment of what’s overall a great app game.

There are also some really beautiful examples of form suiting message (like form suiting content but for awesome games with a message). For example, even if the player doesn’t do so well on the individual runs of the game, each run is given a percentage which progresses a bar to the next “level,” making the individual runs add up in the long run to unlock different abilities and items. It reminded me of how wrong the expression “a drop in the bucket” turns out to be in situation like this – especially since Maya is collecting water droplets. Those drops come together to make something a lot bigger, and quickly (as anyone who’s ever had a leak in their home can probably testify). The larger message, for me, was then that if everyone adds a couple of drops to the bucket, we can create change. Nice!

My favourite part of the game was probably just the means by which the player guides Maya along: by drawing across the iPad in any shape that they want, so long as they keep the beginning of the path under Maya’s feet. I played for over an hour yesterday (and was a total iPad hog, ask anyone) and I never got tired of drawing a path for Maya through the city. The trail that the player draws in front of Maya is visually attractive and can be corrected pretty easily by drawing another path from underneath Maya’s feet. Okay, I lied, I actually played for almost an hour and a half. It was fun.

DECODE GLOBAL will be launching Get Water! on March 22nd, which is also World Water Day and you can expect to see a trailer from them soon. Check them out at or on twitter (@decodeglobal).