Clones of popular mobile games spring up all the time, but it's not often that they get released on the App Store with a name that simply tacks on the word "cloned" in front of the original's title.
Yet that's precisely what's happened with Blek, the stellar game from two-man developer Kunabi Brother, made up of Denis and Davor Mikan. Released in December on iPad and in January on iPhone, the game has received a great deal of acclaim from players and critics alike, even winning an Apple Design Award, reserved for standout apps and games like Device 6, Threes, and Monument Valley.
Blek is a difficult game to describe, but essentially it has you drawing a line that moves across the screen in different ways depending upon their shape, and your goal is to touch certain circles while avoiding hazards. (The video above should give you a better impression of what it's like to play.) As with many of the best mobile games, it's well-suited to touchscreens and short play sessions. It's also a relatively simple game, making it a prime target for those looking to make a quick buck by cloning popular games.
Blek has been cloned more than once already, in some cases bringing it to other mobile operating systems like Windows Phone. Earlier this month, one was released on the iOS App Store that is, frankly, flabbergasting: Cloned Blek.
Created by Coffee House Apps, the game is just what its name describes: a copy of Blek that uses its mechanics, level design, and even App Store description. Perhaps worse yet, the game is available for free (as opposed to Blek's $2.99 price), but constantly throws advertisements in your face--and lest you think ads in a free-to-download iOS game are inconsequential, consider that Flappy Bird was generating $50,000 per day in ad revenue at one point. Little from Blek is changed, save for some colors, making the line bounce off all four borders (rather than just the sides), and adding instructions that do away with the experimentation that makes Blek so satisfying.
As noted above, high-profile mobile games are cloned all the time--cloned source code of games such as Flappy Bird is frequently sold online--but it's not often that they are so blatant. Earlier this year, 2048 was criticized by many for being so similar to Threes. While it was a clone of sorts of a game (1024) that copied Threes, it does at least make some changes to its progenitor's formula--even if those changes make it a weaker game (just ask Threes' developer).
Clones are an unfortunate reality of the mobile game development business, but Apple does have an approval process, and for something like Cloned Blek to make it through is somewhat astounding.
That said, Denis Mikan tells GameSpot it has filed legal complaints with Apple in the past over games that used the Blek name or icon, a process which has resulted in "five or six clones" being forced to change those things. Asked if he was taken aback when Blek began being copied, he told me by email, "No, I was not surprised."
He pointed me in the direction of a website that has begun offering a cloned version of Blek that you can customize and sell. "Blek is finally here. The top game on the App Store for over a month, there are no clones out there," the site reads. "It's your time to make some money. A Blek clone is all you need to get you started. It has all the levels and all mechanics working smooth as the real game. It is very easy to reskin, simply by replacing the assets and you are done."
As soon as Mikan saw that, he says he could see what was coming. "A few weeks ago, I've found this site," he told me by email. "So I knew that the clone invasion is about to happen. Actually, what really surprised me was that nobody made a good clone... But on the other side, if somebody is a good developer, she or he wouldn't make clones, I guess."
Beyond that, Mikan says he simply chooses to look on the bright side of the experience with Blek. "Honestly, I try not to get frustrated, but to focus on great things," he says. "Apple featured Blek a few times already; they gave as an Apple Design Award; for 5 weeks in a row, Blek was #1 in the iPhone Paid App Charts; etc."
Blek is available now on the App Store for $2.99, with an (official) Android version currently in the works.