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The Coin Dozer Gospel

Posted on April 06, 2011 by

Readers of a spiritual or elderly bent may be aware of the parable of the Deck Of Cards. (You can listen to a splendidly reverby take of Wink Martindale’s definitive version by clicking this convenient link here.)

But you don’t have to go back to the 1950s for a similarly instructive metaphor for the contemporary age. Because the iOS game Coin Dozer serves, if you don’t want to carry around a bulky copy of Das Kapital, as a bible of the modern capitalist world. Shut up, it’s not bollocks.

When I start the game, I’m reminded that it’s all about money, obviously. Coin Dozer couldn’t be more unashamedly mercenary, either in its theme or its economic model. The narrative is the accumulation of (virtual) wealth and material goods, and the game’s purpose is the same.

When I see the Coin Store, I’m reminded that just as in real life it’s possible to “cheat” by buying huge amounts of coins straight away (like rich people starting businesses with the advantages of massive PR budgets, or the parasites of Dragon’s Den seizing huge chunks of other people’s without having to do any work, by virtue of their “investment”).

When I progress through the levels, I’m reminded that just as in real life, the more wealth you have the more you’re given. Get rich in Coin Dozer and you’ll keep getting richer, because even when prizes and coins fall off the side at high levels you’re more and more frequently deemed to have “won” them anyway, thanks solely to your already-accumulated prizes.

The more you accumulate, the more advantages are thrown at you. In Coin Dozer that means faster regeneration of coins, more frequent specials, and bigger coin showers. When you’re rich you can also earn more money without doing anything at all – the regeneration maximum increases in higher levels, so you “earn” more coins even when you’re not playing the game at all.

(It’s like the way rich people pay lower proportions of their income in tax than their cleaners, because they can afford expensive accountants to keep their money out of the Treasury’s grasp and avoid paying their fair share, or the way that if you’re already an obscenely wealthy footballer people will give you free cars. If you want to get lots of stuff for nothing, the best way is not to need it. See also Dragon’s Den, but that’s another feature.)

When I look at the prize collection screen, I’m reminded that by the time you’re done, you’ll have more material objects than anyone could ever need. Like some twat rock star with ten houses and 50 cars but only one body to put in any of them, prizes keep piling up in Coin Dozer long after they serve any purpose. The highest number of any one item that helps you in the game is six, but by the time you’ve collected all the stars you might have 20 red teddy bears or 18 pink gems, for no reason other than obsessive hoarding.

When I look at the huge number of Coin Dozer titles in the App Store, I’m think of the way our society will seize like a pack of scavengers on anything that turns out to be popular and squeeze the life out of it with hasty sequels and spinoffs until any uplifting qualities of the original have been buried in an avalanche of diminishing copies.

Coin Dozer was followed with unseemly haste by Cookie Dozer, Coin Dozer Christmas (though Coin Dozer Hannukah has been denied), Coin Dozer Halloween, Coin Dozer Asian New Year (no, I’m not joking), Coin Dozer Thanksgiving and Coin Dozer Seasons (featuring a Valentine’s Day theme), all of them the same game with different graphics. There will surely be more.

(Nobody remembers it now, but the first two Police Academy movies were refreshing, inventive and quite charming. Now you can’t watch them without the horrors of the next five forcing their way into your mind, ruining them forever – the series is a byword for the cynical exploitation of a once-loved property to the point where everyone hates it with a passion. Or if you’re younger, Pirates Of The Caribbean.)

When I look at the Pro versions of the numerous games, I’m reminded of how appallingly companies treat their customers if they think they’ve got a captive market. You don’t have to go far to observe that if you’re involved in iOS gaming, of course, with Apple’s walled garden enabling them to punish users for liking their products with the abysmal iTunes and all manner of other hideous crimes. (See also pretty much anything Nintendo and Sony have done for the last five years.)

Upgrade one of the Coin Dozers to its Pro version to get rid of the adverts and you don’t – as you might expect, and as almost every other upgradable iOS game does – get to keep all the coins and prizes you worked for in the ad version. Nope, your reward for forking out your cash is to have all your achievements wiped out and be sent back to the very beginning to start again from scratch. It’s a bit like legitimate DVD purchasers who – unlike pirates and downloaders – have to wade through trailers and anti-piracy bullshit every time they load up their movie.

(Also, if you buy coins in the ad version you don’t get ads removed, although the vast majority of iThing games throw in ad-removal with any in-app purchase of game currency or items.)

When I look in the iPad section of the App Store, I’m reminded of the terrified greed with which the games industry has reacted to the digital-distribution era, desperately trying to recoup the money “lost” by having to charge reasonable prices by trying to get people to pay repeatedly for the same thing. I note that the Coin Dozer games aren’t Universal, so even if you’ve already coughed up for the Pro version you’ll have to pay again if you want to play it without ads on your iPad.

In fact, Game Circus want to be paid a total of seven times for the same game if you want to enjoy the full Coin Dozer experience across your small and large iThings – just like the way the music industry so badly wants to force you to buy the same album over and over again rather than let you transfer songs you’ve legally paid for to your MP3 player or put them on a memory card to play in your car.

(Or even worse, the grotesque way Nintendo will charge you again for downloaded DSiWare games if your DSi breaks and you have to buy a new one, or if you’ve given them more money by upgrading to a DSi XL.)

When I look at how Coin Dozer handles iOS multitasking, I’m reminded that just as in real life, unscrupulous cheats who exploit life’s little loopholes are handsomely rewarded.

One of the game’s double-edged-sword features is the Giant Coin you can earn, which smashes down onto the playfield and bounces every smaller coin up in the air, often sending many of them down the payout chute. The downside, though, is that once it’s done its work, you’re left with huge gaps on the table, plugging which requires as many coins as you’ve just won and more besides. (That being the fundamental nature of coin pushers.)

However, because Game Circus couldn’t be bothered implementing a basic feature like multitasking support, quitting out of the game and then coming back in resets the playfield to its default state. This is normally a bad thing, as any coins you’ve piled up above the bottom layer are simply lost. After a Giant Coin, though, it’s an excellent way to refill the field for free, as you can see in the before-and-after shots below.

When I look at the wider App Store, I’m reminded of the short-sighted creative bankruptcy that has infested the games business since the first unlicenced Pong knock-offs in the 1970s. It’s packed with second-rate Coin Dozer clones that don’t even understand the things Coin Dozer has done well. Coin Factory, Coin Pusher, Coin Pirates, Coins Vs Zombies, Dungeons and Coins and a dozen more all copy Dozer’s stupid qualities (like not being able to remove ads by paying), with none of its well-balanced slickness and ultra-polished presentation.

(Coins Vs Zombies, which I am not making up, does deserve a special mention here. You can buy extra coins and other powerups in packs ranging from 69p to £7.99, but even after forking out that much you’lll still have to endure the ads. There IS an option to buy a load of coins and remove the ads too, though. Priced at an eminently reasonable £21.)

And when I look at this Coin Dozer feature, I’m reminded of what a horribly depressing thing the videogames industry is. I started out the piece planning a short, fun little light-hearted pastiche of The Deck Of Cards, but on being forced to examine the phenomenon closely I’ve ended up with what appears to be a bitter, angry rant.

I think it’s because I basically love coin-pushers, whether real or virtual. (Let’s face it, the common complaint levelled at seaside amusement-machine sims like fruit machine videogames is that they’re pointless because you can’t win real money. Nobody ever got rich playing a coin-pusher, though, so it isn’t much of a criticism – not that it ever really was.)

I’d happily waste large chunks of my life like an idiot shovelling pretend coins into a pretend version of something that’s stupid even when it’s real, but these twats want to ruin even that simple moron pleasure with their ugly money-grubbing for every last 0.001p they can get for shoving ads in people’s faces even when they’ve paid. Which means, come to think of it, that Coin Dozer is also a lot like Rupert Murdoch.

So let’s at least try to salvage something by ending on a positive note, with two pretty decent ad-free coin-pushers that you can currently get for nothing. iBear Story and 3D Coin Pusher (iPad version) are both really nice (and have of course been covered by the majestic Free-App Hero), and while they’re every bit as keen to encourage your cash out of your pocket, they at least have the dignity not to deface their attractive graphics with tacky ad banners while they do it.

(And it should be said too that iBear Story is quite a lot more generous with coins for its freebie players than most.)

Both also have some fun original ideas and run smoothly (quite a few coin pushers struggle with the number of objects onscreen, which is embarrassing), and Bear Coin even throws in multiple machines, after a fashion. So I guess, like The Deck Of Cards, our story turned out to be a redemptive one after all.

For you see, viewers, if you look at the right-hand side of the screenshot immediately above – I was that soldier.

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    4 to “The Coin Dozer Gospel”

    1. Tom K. says:

      This articles has changed my life. I am now a socialist/communist, and have been arrested by the police.

      This is the last chance I will ever have to use the internet. Thank you.

    2. Bear or bust says:

      Coinpushers are actually one of the few forms of gambling I like,  I don't know if Namco have a version of PacMan Ball on the Appstore, but thats probably one of my favourite real life coinpushers. 

    3. Irish Al says:

      I think that Phil Harris' version of 'Deck Of Cards' is the best.

    4. CheekyLee says:

      Just thought I should point out that Nintendo actually released a tool that will allow you to transfer your DSi purchases to another DSi or a 3DS, or I suppose even from a 3DS back to a DSi. (Haven't actually tried it that way, why would I?) It is only transfer, not duplicate, but at least it's something.

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