App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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I’ve dabbled more than a bit in location domination multiplayer games lately. Each had their own approach to the idea, but the one thing they all lacked was a distinct hands-on approach to maintaining one’s territory. In other words, they all boiled down to tapping buttons on a menu screen. City King mixes things up by having players compete for real world locations by out-scoring their competitors in small, self-contained action sequences. It certainly beats staring at a static screen, but the key mechanics are more than a little rough.
After choosing between a melee-focused knight or a still melee-focused but slightly more nimble gunner (it doesn’t make sense to me, either), then wading through the mercifully brief tutorial, players can start taking over their neighborhood. Both characters play the same, save the gunner’s ranged special attack versus the knight’s spinning in place, so choice is really just dependant on aesthetics. In order to check in and lay claim to a building they’ll have to fight and survive their way through a horde of enemy monsters. If they plan to take over another player’s turf, they have to do the same but also try to beat the owner’s current high score. Success earns money that can be used to purchase new weapons and equipment while any experience gained goes toward preset character progression.
As I’ve already hinted at, there’s something to be said for a location-based game that has actual gameplay. Not to knock other titles in the genre or anything but it’s downright refreshing to actually play something instead of just reading menus. And while I’m not a fan of the knight’s cookie-cutter portrayal and moveset, the gunner makes up for it. Sure it’s still mashing a button and swinging a weapon around, but it looks much flashier and her special attack is much more useful.
Even with the added interactivity, City King still has some problems. The beat-em-up style game used to fight for territory is incredibly simple and more than a little stiff to control. It wouldn’t make it very far if that were all it had going for it. But while that extra layer of interactivity is still welcome, I feel like something a bit more direct such as a form of player-versus-player combat would make things much more interesting. Thankfully it’s not just about the awkward fighting. Of course, even the location-based side of things could use some work as the map is hard to read on my iPhone and it doesn’t allow for zooming in or out.
City King definitely deserves credit for trying to do things differently. It’s just unfortunate that the different stuff needs a lot of refinement. Still, those looking for location-based gaming with more of an emphasis on the actual “game” part could certainly do worse.