Developer: Volv Apps
Price: Free
Version Reviewed: 2.1
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 4S

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Controls Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½
Playtime Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

IMG_0388[1]In an App Store full of countless derivations of the same handful of genres, sometimes all it takes for a game to stand out is to just execute on one of those genres really well. That’s what Black Operations does and that’s why anyone interested in mobile real-time strategy should give it a look.

Specifically, Black Operations is 2D sidescrolling strategy game. The playfield is a linear plane with two bases on each end; to win, players must overcome what is essentially a tug-of-war battle to overthrow the enemy’s HQ. It’s a simplified take on real-time strategy that’s been proven successful on mobile phones, consoles, and pretty much anything without a mouse. However, Black Operations does throw in a few new elements to liven things up. In most games like this once a unit is spawned they march forward and attack until they die. Here, though, players use intuitive multi-touch gestures to tell soldiers to move out, retreat, or stay put. This opens up new tactical possibilities like having units rally around a newly-capture watch tower or drawing enemies out by sacrificing individual soldiers.

Strategy also comes from what nation players choose to represent for each mission and what load-outs they bring into battle. Special tech for America, Russia and Germany include tanks, helicopters, and touch-guided cruise missiles. For more morbid players though, the unlockable zombie nation may be more their speed. Luckily, it’s a fairly long campaign and allegiances can be swapped before missions providing many opportunities to experiment.

What stays constant though is Black Operations’ captivating art style. While the backlit, silhouetted look may have been done before, combining it with an army aesthetic gives it a bit of, perhaps unearned, gravitas. Besides being pleasing to look at though, these visuals are great at making units distinct from each other instead of blurring together on the flat plane. This keeps the strategizing as nice and clear as it should be.

Black Operations is a great-looking, great-playing take on a genre that works well on mobile. It’s fantastic fun.

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