Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPod touch 4, iPad 1
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Zen Wars is a multi-phase strategy game inspired by the arcade classic, Rampart. The game takes place in three stages: first, the combat stage where the player fires their cannons at their enemies and their assorted defenses for about 10-15 seconds depending on game mode. Second, there's the rebuilding phase, where random blocks must be placed down to reinforce the player's territory. At least one of the three fortresses in the player's territory must be completely encircled, which is made challenging through random piece offerings that must be used to fill in small gaps in the walls, and soldiers wandering around the territory. Third is the armament phase, where new cannons are placed down. Then it's back to phase one. The game comes with a campaign mode where various scenarios are given for the player to try and take out their enemies while learning how to play the game. Four of the levels are available as endless survival levels, as well.
While the campaign mode isn't bad, it's the multiplayer mode that's the real meat of the game. 2 or 3 players can go at it over Game Center, with the goal being to be the last base standing. This comes with full voice chat support, which adds a lot to the experience, especially with 3 people. Because of the imbalance, it's possible for two players to team up on one player who has an advantage, in order to help bring them back among the rest of the pack. It's a ton of frantic fun, especially when trying to just find that one piece to fit into a wall to keep from dying. The game and voice chat worked perfectly over wifi, even with one player from Austria, with no latency issues. The game doesn't come with native iPad support, but it will display the Retina Display graphics through some kind of dark technical wizardry that Apple should just enable for everyone already. An update for native iPad support is on the way with iPad-specific enhancements, though.
Some of the campaign missions can tend to drag on, especially with some where it feels like I can unleash enough of an onslaught on my opponents that nothing's really a threat...except for when one of the blasted soldiers goes and destroys a tiny piece of wall that encases a large base, and because the game is very heavily balanced toward s large, ill-fitting fortress pieces, fixing those holes can be a challenge. And really, that's the biggest problem - small pieces just disappear entirely at one point, and it makes building impossible. Including a few more small pieces in the later waves would make things dramatically less frustrating. While 3 player play is fun, 4 players could be even more fun. As well, additional maps for multiplayer would add to the variety of the game.
Zen Wars' value is largely in its incredibly fun multiplayer mode, so it comes highly recommended when players can gather up a few friends for some retro arcade-inspired strategy gaming. But if this is possible, then Zen Wars is a ton of fun.