Since my first NFL Shuffle post way back on February 6, I have continued to play this silly little game every single day (an hour-long commute gives you plenty of handheld gaming time). Despite there being seemingly no maximum level, I think I can safely say I’ve reached the endgame content, where the actual progression of the game becomes minimal and I play merely because it’s now part of my daily routine. My team contains some of the strongest players in the game, the only guys that can beat me have probably spent $100 on in-app purchases (IAP), and the single-player mode has reached a point where the opponents are so difficult that… only the handful of people that spent $100 on IAP even have a chance. And even then, the opponents’ weakest characters are as tough as your strongest.
The most interesting thing about spending so long on one game, however, is really getting to know it, to understand it, to appreciate it in ways that many of us with busy adult lives have no time or inclination to do with most titles. There’s a lot of games released every month, after all, and we can only play one at a time. (Why I spent something like 100 commutes on NFL Shuffle… that’s a whole ‘nother post, probably in a psychology case study magazine somewhere.)
With NFL Shuffle, it’s interesting seeing how it has evolved before my eyes, from a game where – in the beginning – each new player was a quantum leap improvement over your old team, to what I now play daily: a game based on luck, exploiting weakness, and nigh-unbeatable adversaries.
There are three big parts to NFL Shuffle, and each has its own quirks:
- The solo “Season” mode where you knock out team after team, working your way through every division and onto the playoffs. Each time you beat the whole thing, you get to start again, this time with stronger adversaries. The game does this by simply multiplying the stats of your opponents’ player cards (see: Fake Difficulty). So, on level one (out of five), Eli Manning is rated at about 6,000, but by level four he has a score of over 30,000. The strongest card you can get in the entire game has an overall score of about 15,000. No matter how good you get, the only way to win is luck. You have to hope that your cards are matched against weaker guys, because he has a good chance of burning you for 80 yards no matter how much time and money you invest into your players.
- The “Versus” mode where you fight other players is the fairest of them all. Since both you and your opponent are at the same level in every single game, there’s a good chance that you’ll find guys stronger than you, and guys weaker than you, and – in most cases – guys that you can beat sometimes, but not always. This is because just having a bigger number on your card doesn’t guarantee a winning play; it just guarantees a better chance of having a winning play. Again: luck reigns supreme. There’s nothing more exhilarating than an underpowered player taking it all the way down the field in the last second for the win… unless of course the underpowered player belongs to your opponent, and you thought you had the match all wrapped up. That’s when you pull out your hair and scream about how unfair the game is. It’s really not, though. It just seems that way because it’s unfair for everyone.
- The final mode is “The Gridiron,” a multi-day event held about once a week, starting and stopping at different times, with varying lengths of time for each. These usually have a theme, like “Super Bowl” or “Pro Bowl,” and it offers exclusive prizes for the top performers and bonus cards along the way. The catch is that to play, you have to use Event Tickets, which, like everything else in the game, are random drops during Season or Versus modes. Performing well in The Gridiron is the best and only way to get the cream-of-the-crop on your team. AND it doesn’t reward experience points. This is a good way to completely overpower your team while appearing underleveled. You tricky dog, you.
Random drops. Random chance of winning. Random opponents with potentially random, disastrous results. The random keeps me coming back day-in and day-out because I never know if that next random card pack will finally contain a random Limited Edition Grade 6 player. Well, that and FREE CARD EVERY 24 HOURS?! Man. They really nailed this free-to-play thing.
Send help. I need to move onto Ridiculous Fishing and Year Walk sometime this millennium.