Developer: Backflip Studios
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★★
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½
User Interface Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

Harbor Havoc 3D is the latest title from Backflip Studios, the makers of the excellent Ragdoll Blaster and Paper Toss: World Tour games.  This is their entry into the crowded line-drawing genre, borrowing elements from games like Flight Control, Harbor Master, and the lesser-known Sea Captain.  What sets Harbor Havoc apart, however, is the move to 3D.  Besides being a visual treat, the extra dimension brings with it a multi-layered approach that will ask you to juggle helicopters, boats and submarines, all at the same time.  This spin on the classic formula makes you stop and think about which vehicles can safely pass over each other, and is enough of a mental curveball to make the game stand out from the crowd.

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Harbor Havoc 3D comes with a total of 4 maps, each of which is nicely rendered and backed with suitably themed music. Far East is the first level, and it serves as a good introduction to the mechanics of the game since you only have to deal with ships.  In order to direct a ship that floats onto the screen, you simply select it and draw its course.  The icons used to indicate an arriving ship are not color-coded as in most games of this genre, but will tell you the type of vessel that is approaching.  When you select one, its destination port is highlighted to assist you in recognizing the goal, and the vehicles themselves have very slight color indications.  This can be confusing at first and not quite as intuitive as other games in the genre, but you can quickly memorize the different ship types and know where they are supposed to be going.  There is no unloading of cargo as in Harbor Master, as you just need to bring the ships home, and the ships can land at any section of the port, allowing for multiple arrivals at the same time.  A nice feature of Harbor Havoc 3D is that you can also anchor a vessel at any time by tapping it.  This will stop any vehicle in its tracks, and you can resume its motion by tapping it again.  You will have to draw the route again, however, otherwise the ship will just proceed forward in a straight line.  This offers some interesting strategies and caveats for the player to deal with.

Atlantis is the next map, and it starts to up the ante by including two vehicle types.  The level is actually located underwater, and incorporates sea-floor rovers as well as floating subs.  There is also an added element of obstructions for the rovers, as rocks on the sea-floor cause blockages at certain points of the map.  This level introduces you to the new mentality required to juggle vehicles on two different planes, as you soon have to get over the instinctual fear of drawing two routes that would normally cause a collision but are just fine if it just means crossing a sub with a rover.  You will be forced to think differently, and this really is the case when you hit the third and best map called Arctic.  This third map is the culmination of the game, and has you managing helicopters, ships, and submarines.  You will need to guide them to the appropriate docks, including a central rig with helipad.  The action is really ramped up to a crescendo on this map, where you can have all three vehicle types crossing over each other in a line-drawing symphony.  This map has an all-around intensity to it, which is even reflected by the dramatic level music.  Big scores are ready to be had on this level, as the vessels come fast and furious, and you will really have to bird-dog the edges of the screens as more arrive.

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Lighthouse is the fourth and final map, and can be unlocked after a certain amount of traffic has been routed on the other levels.  This map brings things back to just ships, but takes place at night where the only light you have is a slowly rotating lighthouse lamp.  To complicate things further, only certain ships have faint, on-board lights.  Besides unlocking this map, there are also various trophies that can be earned throughout the course of the game as Harbor Havoc 3D supports the Plus+ network.  There are leaderboards for all the maps, and you can challenge your friends on the network via push notification.  The highscores themselves have not spiraled to ridiculous degrees so far, implying a nice balance to the game.  Besides the ability to challenge your friends via Plus+, Harbor Havoc 3D also provides the option to post a fat score to your Twitter or Facebook pages.

A couple of things that are noticeably absent from the game are a fast forward button and in-game save, both of which are really helpful for games of this genre.  Luckily, Backflip has announced that an update has already been submitted that will address these omissions.  Both Flight Control and Harbor Master eventually added more maps and multiplayer functionality as well, so hopefully Harbor Havoc 3D will follow suit, because the core game is definitely a winner.

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It’s not easy these days for a new line-drawing game to stand out in the app store.  It is definitely a fatigued genre, but Harbor Havoc 3D manages to shine through because of its high level of quality and its vertical nature.  It is a solid and attractive game, and worthy of being considered amongst the best of its kind.



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