Version Reviewed: 1.0
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There have been attempts at a Real Time Strategy game on the iPhone, but unfortunately efforts have, for the most part, fallen flat. Enter Robocalypse, a Nintendo DS port loaded with humor and style.
Oh no! There's been a mix-up at the robot factory! The DNA of some polite robot toasters gets mixed up with that of the war machine robots to create... evil polite war robots! As a lowly designer at the factory and former captain of your high-school chess team, it is left up to you to command friendly robots to stop the evil robots from taking over the planet. The story is wacky and goofy but quite funny, and cartoon-storyboard cutscenes are played in between missions to develop it further. The single player campaign mode consists of 17 hefty missions, and the variation between levels is great, with some being very linear and some being basically a skirmish. Each of these missions can be played on three varying difficulties. In addition, there is a full-fledged skirmish mode for a quick game. To further increase replay value, there is online multiplayer, though it apparently is in "beta." For the most part, it works pretty well.
Robocalypse's gameplay may be a bit basic to RTS lovers but it does contain just enough detail. All the basics of RTS games are there - buildings, units, and resource management. There are five building types and 10 unit types, and the goal is to capture strategic holdings throughout maps to build up resources and troops to ultimately storm enemy HQ. There are also six "heroes" that require a hero factory to produce and hold special abilities. Though you can command these heroes individually, you cannot do so with your normal troops. Instead, in the main shortcoming of the game, you must place "action flags," which tell your troops to attack a troop or building, capture an area, or heal a troop or "defense flags" which tell your troops to defend a certain area. Unfortunately, you cannot choose the number or kind of troops to follow an action and it can often be frustrating trying to correctly command your units. In addition, in another "dumbing down," you can only build on predetermined building pads.
The touchscreen controls work very well overall and transfer well from the DS version. The UI will reformat based on what side your device is tilted to, but unfortunately it can be a bit obstructive due to the fact that there is no "grey area" outside of the battlefield, meaning certain parts of the game can get stuck behind interface elements, virtually requiring an annoying device rotation. Other than this oversight, the UI and controls are fluid and intuitive with enough confirmation prompts to limit mistakes.
Undoubtedly the biggest draw of Robocalypse is its presentation. While cutscenes are illustrated in a simple cartoon style, they are done well. The actual in-game graphics are very nice with a pretty decent amount of detail. Animations live up to the billing as well. Keeping in with the game's humorous style, sound effects are zany but well-timed and never annoying.
Robocalypse may not be the deepest RTS, but it is very well executed with a fantastic presentation. It doesn't try to do anything spectacular, but overall it delivers a well-rounded portable RTS for only $2.99, the best yet on the iPhone platform.