Welcome back to the In-App Purchase Inspector - our regular look at free-to-play games from the consumer's perspective.
In each instalment, we consider the incentives or pressure applied to make in-app purchases, their perceived value, the expansion offered by IAPs and the overall value of the experience.
The end goal is to see whether the game makes a good enough case for us to part with our cash, or whether players are content - or engaged enough - to 'freeload'.
This time, we're taking a look at Best Fiends Forever, Seriously's clicker spin-off from its 2014 match-3 puzzler Best Fiends.
Money for nothing
Only in a clicker, also known as an idle game, could 'Spend Two Hours Away From The Game' be a challenge that the player is actively encouraged to complete.
This is one of Best Fiends Forever's earliest challenges to the player and is perhaps the clearest encapsulation of how it differs from the traditional game structure.
The core appeal of the idle game genre is that it doesn't demand your undivided attention.
Indeed, the core appeal of the idle game genre is that it doesn't demand your undivided attention. Or for you to even be looking at your phone.
In-game actions are automated, with the player only really called upon to spend their not-so-hard-earned coins on increasing the power and frequency of these actions through upgrades.
Forever is quite the diversion from the match-3 puzzling of the original Best Fiends, then, but it appears to be paying off amply for Seriously with three million downloads in three days.
Play the hits
Taking on a procession of monstrous slugs across numerous static screens with a squad of unique units, each area building to a crescendo with a fearsome boss, Best Fiends feels most comparable to an old-school dungeon crawling RPG.
And it's not the first clicker on mobile to crib this style, with flaregames' Nonstop Knight taking inspiration from Diablo.
It works well, taking the familiar grind phase of the RPG loop and letting it play out in your pocket. On your return, you'll be told how many coins you've earned and given the chance to plough them into upgrades.
You'll also need to be present in order to use Bombs (a consumable attack), enable any of your Fiends' special abilities, or to enter boss fights.
In essence, it's the highlights of dungeon crawling with the filler cut out.
As is common with the idle game genre, it's not long before the soft currency (Coins) you're regularly earning and spending hits the billions and beyond.
Providing an incentive to spend is one of the perennial problems faced by clickers.
It's flying about absolutely everywhere, rendered meaningless by sheer volume, and you use the same Coins you earn while your phone's in your pocket to buy upgrades.
So there's an obvious question: where's the incentive to spend in Best Fiends Forever?
This is one of the perennial problems faced by clickers, as is long-term retention. However, Seriously has done a better job of combating this than any idle game I've yet seen.
It's strong on this right out of the gate, offering 150 Diamonds (hard currency) as a reward for early players.
This column usually converts such values to establish just how much the player is getting, but Best Fiends Forever does this for us - it's worth $1.99, and this is made clear on screen.
It's the kind of player-friendly monetisation that should be encouraged, giving gifts but ensuring that the player realises it - and hopefully, responds in kind by spending later down the line.
Diamonds are available in bundles ranging from 150 for $1.99 to 11,000 for $59.99, and are mostly spent on boosts.
This is the kind of player-friendly monetisation that should be encouraged.
The biggest of these are the aforementioned consumable bombs, which do massive damage to enemies. You can get two for 150 Diamonds ($1.99), four for 250 (approx. $3.12), or eight for 400 ($4.99).
You can also bag 2x damage or coin drops for 200 Diamonds apiece, effects that will last for your entire progress in your current world.
Should you want to multiply yet further, 3x is priced at 300 Diamonds, 4x at 400, and so on.
Little and often
All of these provide decent value, and are attractive for when you're struggling to make progress - indeed, a criticism that could be levelled at Best Fiends Forever is that progression is a tad slow
Perhaps more compelling, though, are the uses of small Diamond charges and incentivised video ads threaded throughout.
While playing, if you tap certain on-screen elements you'll be granted a choice of two bonuses. Presented like cards, there are Common and Rare varieties.
A typical example of the former would be +200% Coins for one minute, while the latter can grant the likes of +400% slap damage for 40 seconds.
This alone is far more compelling than not being given a choice, but you can then double the effect by either watching an ad or spending 10 Diamonds.
The psychological pull of doubling rewards is too great to pass up.
There is a limit on how many ads you can watch per day that appears to be around 10 - the player is only warned when down to their final three - but it's still a decent enough offer for non-paying users.
When returning after a period away from the game, you'll also get a chance to watch a video ad to double the spoils.
Given the huge number of Coins involved, especially after a long break, the psychological pull of doubling is too great to imagine anyone passing it up for the meagre inconvenience of a 30-second ad.
Interestingly, Best Fiends Forever also features an optional subscription to become a VIP.
Priced at £12.49 per month in the UK - or, as it's at great pains to point out, £0.41 per day - it offers a VIP Souvenir that provides x2 damage and Coins, exclusive stickers, and a VIP discount on all Gem packs.
It also boasts a social element, giving all the Facebook friends of a VIP a 10% coin bonus.
Elsewhere, there are plenty of other offers. I succumbed to the Starter Pack, a bundle offering 1,200 Diamonds (normally $9.99) and 82.59B Coins (worth $1.49) for $5.99.
At an overall saving of $5.49, it's a solid reduction. And used wisely on reasonably priced boosts, Diamonds can go a long way too.
All in all, then, Best Fiends Forever is an exemplary take on the idle game genre. Seriously's move into the genre may have been unexpected, but it's proven that it can compete with, and maybe even surpass, the best in class.
With little pressure to spend, mutually beneficial implementation of video ads and good offers for those who want to speed things up, it's a smooth experience.