The creators of Jumping Dog want you, and all of your Facebook friends, to be aware that there is a jumping dog. This dog is wearing goggles and running in circles in his yard because there are balloons floating in the sky. This is how he will finally achieve his dream of bounding to the stratosphere. Unfortunately, he is bound to make a huge ruckus in doing so.
If you’re played games like Doodle Jump and Bird Strike then Jumping Dog will be immediately familiar. You want to go higher and higher by jumping on balloons, bones (presumably, bones give the dog a burst of energy that feeds his levitation skills) and springs. You don’t technically jump, but simply guide the dog with your mouse to the next object so that he doesn’t plummet to the ground. The game continues as long as you’re in the air. Frustratingly, the mouse controls aren’t exactly precise, and can feel a little sticky depending on how taxed your computer’s resources are.
To the game’s credit, there are some variations on the standard mechanics that subtly twist up the gameplay. Rather than act as static platforms, the balloons slowly fall to the ground—so as you go higher, they go lower. This friction adds a small element of surprise to the game. And you don’t actually advance by covering distance—you gain levels by reaching point milestones. You earn a certain number of points when you hit each balloon, bone and spring.
Unfortunately, this gives one the impression that little thought has been put into Jumping Dog as a game as opposed to a marketing tool. What is shown to you in the game is that you are going higher and higher in the sky; the name implies that the dog is trying to scale increasing heights, and the circus-like music that loops in the background calls up images of men shooting out of cannons. But because points, rather than height, determine how far you go, the game feels fundamentally disconnected from your actions. Your instinct is to shoot higher and higher, aiming for the springs that send you flying past balloons; but you’d do just as well taking it one balloon at a time, slowly accumulating points.
The truth is that the game is here to generate points and attention. Frequently it will ask you for permission to automatically post your new scores to your Facebook news feed. The prompt will not go away until you grant permission. (To counter this, simply remove the first Jumping Dog post from your news feed and check the option to ban the game from sending automatic updates. Unfortunately, the game will soon ask again.) When you get a new highscore, the game sends you off to a screen in which you can invite your friends to play the game. There’s no option to skip this step; you have to manually start the game over in order to keep playing. It’s doubtful, anyway, that you fill find it worthwhile to nag your friends to activate the game just so that you can compare scores in the leaderboard below the main window.
The most egregious, if typical for a Facebook game, example of gameplay crossing into marketing is the selection of special power-ups you can buy via PayPal, credit card, text message, or Offerpal. These items, like wings and dynamite that save the dog from falling, are valued at $1.95 each, which is more than twice what the game itself is worth.
These distractions and interruptions cement the idea that Jumping Dog doesn’t care about giving you a good time. He just wants attention.