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Hands-on with Agar.io: what the heck is it? Why is it so popular?
Agar.io is amazingly easy to play. You start as a little cell and you must float around a game board collecting miniature cells. As you collect more, you grow in size and as you grow in size, you grow in power. The game play is strikingly similar to Osmos HD, and those who have played that game already know how this one works.
Each game board is populated by a certain number players. As you get bigger, your goal is to either absorb your opponents if they’re smaller, or avoid being absorbed by your larger opponents. Despite its simplicity, Agar.io requires quite a bit of patience as you roam around trying not to get trapped by the larger entities. Speed is determined by your size. You move slower as you grow larger and move faster as you get smaller.
Inside the game, there are various mechanics to either give you an advantage or put you at a disadvantage. There are green NPC cells that will split you off into many smaller cells. This can be detrimental if you’re trying to make yourself larger but potentially a lifesaver if you’re being chased by opponents as the smaller size lets you get away more quickly.
The controls are also fairly simple to grasp. It’s a touch-based joystick that controls your direction that works well about 98% of the time. Along with that you get two buttons. The first allows you to split into two cells, the second of which shoots off of your body like a weapon and can be used to absorb smaller players. The second button allows you to drop your size when tapped repeatedly to help you escape sticky situations.
The last thing we’ll mention in this section are the names. You can give yourself a name and you’ll be a random cell with a random color. However, there are a metric ton of Easter eggs that allow you to alter your cell. For instance, naming yourself “doge” gives you a meme-inspired cell. During my testing, I played against a guy named Obama and wouldn’t you know it, there I was being chased down by the President of the United States.
The premise of the game is to survive and become the biggest cell on the game board. This is much easier said than done. You start off pretty small and the room you’re in has generally matured to include players of massive sizes. There are right around 100 players per room and they range from being super small cells just trying to survive to gigantic cells that you try like hell to avoid. No matter where you’re dropped in, you have people to chase and to run from.
A unique aspect to the game comes when you play in the same room long enough. You start to get to know the other players in the room. For instance, during my game play, I ran into a player named Mars who was actually quite smaller than I was. 15 minutes later, I ran into Mars again and s/he swallowed me whole because s/he took up the entire game board. Players grow, shrink, quit, and join fairly frequently but those who are really into the game seem to be there a while.
Outside of that, there’s really not much to Agar.io. You start, you collect cells, you take out rival players, and you get really big. That’s really all that you do.
Here’s what we liked about the game:
- The entire game is online multiplayer which means you always have someone else to play with. Leaders can be easily displayed using the leaderboard button on the top right of the game screen.
- The mechanics are easy enough for virtually anyone to understand. It’s not one of those games that’s easy to learn and difficult to master. It’s easy to master pretty much right out of the gate.
- The game is lightweight. It’s not a large game and doesn’t consume a lot of resources. That makes it a great title for people that have old, midrange, or low-range devices.
- The challenge comes from being in a room with a ton of other players who have just as quickly and easily mastered the controls. It is surprisingly difficult to play and requires a decent amount of focus and attention to do well.
- The hidden Easter eggs add a little fun and humor to the proceedings. There are a lot of them and include things like Qing Dynasty, Doge, Obama, Mars, 8-Ball, and many others. It’s not hard to find them but we have no idea how many there are in total.
- It’s free to play with advertising. It does state that there are in-app purchases but aside from removing advertising, we couldn’t find evidence that they affected gameplay whatsoever. In fact, we couldn’t even find the one that removes advertising. They likely haven’t been fully implemented yet so we’ll see how that goes when they are.
- It’s easy to pick up and put down. There are also no timers, energy bars, or other nonsense to prevent you from playing when you want to.
And here’s what we didn’t like so much.
- It really is just a simple time waster game. It’s a lot of fun and it’s very challenging, but there’s no actual content. Just gameplay.
- Some of the mechanics can be finicky sometimes. The ability to split and shoot yourself at opposing players doesn’t work sometimes and the controls are a bit wonky, especially if you’re on a wall.
- The game relies totally on an Internet connection. That means bad connection and lagging can happen sometimes.
- While not necessary for a good experience, some Google Play Games achievements and leaderboards would have been a nice touch.
At the end of the day, this is a time waster game that’s flying off the hinges with how popular it is. In terms of viral value, it’s not too dissimilar from Flappy Bird or Threes! were when they were smash hits that everyone wanted to play. Thankfully, the mechanics are solid and the always-on multiplayer actually gives the game the kind of challenge that doesn’t want to make you break things. It’s free to download and not the worst way to spend a few minutes while you’re on the toilet or waiting in line somewhere. Click the button blow to give it a shot!