Quitting smoking is no easy feat. According to Gameloft’s
My Stop Smoking Coach with Allen Carr though, it’s as simple as a positive attitude and a few minigames. Allen Carr, an accountant who overcame his own five-pack-a-day habit and went on to found clinics around the world based on his book The Easy Way to Stop Smoking, seems to have hit on a powerful idea—that removing the doubt and fear around quitting helps smokers spot their addiction and move past it. What else could sustain all 100 of his Easyway clinics? However, it’s hard to believe that My Stop Smoking Coach for the iPhone and iPod touch could really help any smoker quit.
Fluffed up with the language of motivational speakers and late-night infomercials, the game—and the developer does mean it to be a game just as much as a self-help app—feels more cheesy than playful. Players begin by picking a coach, one of a handful of actual experts from various real-world clinics. Whomever you choose, the experience is the same. All that changes is the coach’s smiling photo at the top of the screen. Then the reading begins.
My Stop Smoking Coach pumps players full of airy “facts,” like how smoking makes you a slave to the nasty cigarette monster and how that high you get from a much-needed cigarette is actually feeding the cycle of dependence. Aren’t these things smokers—especially the ones who are trying to quit—already know?
Anyone looking for actionable, pragmatic advice will be left waiting indefinitely. Instead, expect to walk away with a few hollow mantras. Maybe what makes My Stop Smoking Coach so much less effective than Carr’s clinics is that players have zero time to process the info they’ve been fed. The game jumps from one bit of text to the next, and then goes straight into minigames that supposedly drive home the point. Everything happens fast. There’s literally no way to pause without closing the app.
All might be redeemed—or at least improved—if the minigames were actually fun. Fourteen in total, they range from a driving puzzle (get the cigarette monster to the airport while ignoring his bad directions) to an ice climbing level (showing how trying to reach that nicotine satisfaction can be a slippery slope) to a firehouse squirting challenge (who knows what that one is supposed to teach us). The graphics, presumably meant to be cute and approachable, consist of stick figures and other sketchy drawings.
Despite the explanatory videos that come before each game, many are frustrating to figure out, leaving players with the urge to just move, lesson learned or not. For a game that promises a lot, My Stop Smoking Coach delivers little—both when it comes to gameplay and the hope of kicking that nasty habit.
My Stop Smoking Coach is compatible with any iPhone or iPod touch running the iPhone 2.x software update.
[Bonnie Ruberg is a San Francisco freelance writer whose work has appeared at Forbes.com, The Village Voice, and other publications.]