Developer: Prank Ltd.
Version Reviewed: 1.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2
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Few game genres have the potential to be as complicated as real time strategy. Often times making use of every button a keyboard and mouse have to offer, the most hardcore PC RTS games have players performing dozens if not hundreds of actions per minute. Surprisingly though, there are several games that manage to convey what's great about the genre in a much more approachable way. Ant Raid is a great example.
The storyline, which pits a group of plucky ants against a diverse horde of big zombie insects, is conveyed through motion comics and light voice acting. There's a fun, colorful, cartoon atmosphere reminiscent of A Bug's Life and it carries over into the main game. The polygonal models may sometimes look gross for reasons other than the fact that they are bugs, but the camera is pulled back far enough to render that point mostly moot.
Formulating successful strategies requires quick input and Ant Raid makes some smart compromises to make a finger the only input a player needs. Troops are always stationed around a main base and selecting squads of varying sizes is a snap. Therefore there's rarely any need for strict micro-managing, a task the iPad is totally not suited for. Plus, the title of the mission is usually a good clue as to what tactics are needed.
Granted, this limits the kind of missions the game can present but it finds ways around that too. First, while there are 60 story missions and various other bonus scenarios, they are bite-sized skirmishes that end before repetition sinks in. Second, taking a lesson from Nintendo's own garden based RTS Pikmin, ants of different colors have different properties. Oddly enough, because the ants start off purple, when red and blue powers are combined they become gold. Finally, sometimes the player can interact with the action directly and use their finger to hurl divine lighting at foes and collect berries, needles and other precious resources.
Ant Raid shows how sneaky the casual RTS is. What seems cute and mindless is actually incredibly fun because it encourages one to think and use a little foresight. It may not be a gateway directly into something like Starcraft but hey, it's a start.