Review: My Army

MyArmy

As the iOS platform has matured with regards to gaming, new game styles are becoming less frequent a treat to find.  Instead game developers are taking concepts that originally may have been introduced in games with a single mechanic and incorporating the best ideas from several titles to create interesting mash-ups. Obviously, with no physical buttons to press, developers have to take advantage of the other features available to iOS devices.  Touch inputs and gyroscope movements are a natural fit.  Adding short burst gameplay, lots of in-game challenges, and social elements all can extend the life of games that otherwise could be considered a tiny wave of a quick distraction in a sea of quick distractions.  Fine tune a game and players can feel like they are riding in a barrel — twitch wrong, lose your balance, and the ride is over.

This is how Bad Puppet’s My Army feels.  Like surfing, it looks easy, but once you start to get to the good stuff, the game becomes a sheer frantic chaos of bullets, barbwire, mines, missiles and fire.  One wrong move and the epic wave will eat you alive.  Okay.  Let me back up a second.  Obviously My Army isn’t about surfing, it is about leading four soldiers from a beach landing through increasingly difficult fields of battle.  The soldiers move forward at all times and are steered past obstacles by tilting the iPhone (or iPod) left or right, avoiding barb wire, mines, fire hazards etc.  Shells drop down at the soldiers but can be detonated before they hit the ground by a quick tap on the screen. Homing missiles can be shot out of the air in similar fashion.  Large area bombardments can be swiped out of the way.

While all of that is happening the four soldiers are dodging the battlefield obstacles and shooting at enemy soldiers.  To keep ammo levels up the soldiers can walk over air dropped supplies that appear throughout the constantly up-scrolling world.  If a soldier is dispatched, POWs appear similarly to the ammo drops, and walking over them can restore the squad.

Objectives add another level of challenge to the game, but offer rewards such as different uniform types which make the homing missiles stop homing in on the soldiers, depending on the environment they are currently running through.  Additionally, vehicles can be selected, but those are only available at later sections of the game.  Completed objectives also award points that accrue to help free countries that are being oppressed.  This last bit is a little too abstract as a meta objective within the game in my opinion, but for completionists who want to have something to strive for after the rest of the mission objectives have been met, this adds one more re-playable goal.

While complaints can be leveled at Apple’s implementation of Game Center, the ability to see how I rank among my friends is always a nice touch.  Bad Puppet leverages Game Center for Leaderboards and Achievements, but goes one step further by incorporating Facebook for additional social connections.  I’m not a big fan of Facebook gaming or the spam that can be associated with the current “typical” model of Facebook games, but My Army ties friends to the game in a fun way.  Instead of four generic soldiers, when Facebook integration is turned on, the soldiers are instead friends pulled from real life.  As the soldiers die, POW rescues retrieve new friends from Facebook.  At the end of each session a summary lists how far each friend survived before their grisly demise.  Of course, as with any other Facebook game, this summary can be posted to Facebook itself.  This offers two things: an additional way to get friends to play and compete within the game’s leaderboard as well as a means to advertise the game outside of traditional gaming outlets.

While I have certainly enjoyed my time with My Army, I find that the game has a few quirks that could likely be fixed–or minimized at least–with a patch.  First off, why do I have to enable the iOS Game Center integration?  I can understand giving players the option to enable OpenFeint vs Game Center, but only having one option (which isn’t enabled by default) seems a bit odd.  My second issue is how the Facebook integration works.  I can turn the feature on or off, but any progress that I’ve made while Facebook integration is turned on is lost if I choose to turn off the social feature.  A third but minor issue I have with the game is the overall difficulty.  The first few areas are almost too easy, but once the homing missiles start flying in, in addition to the air dropped bombardments, the game becomes a bit of a sensory overload.  The game ramps up the difficulties and never lets up, with the exception of short transitional sections between one stage and the next, I felt like progression within the game could only be made further if I had Jedi-like reflexes.

A sign of a good game is one that offers players a chance to play in short sessions but suck them in for much longer periods of time.  A sign of a great game is playing through those longer sessions only to realize that you’ve played for so long that your battery is about to hit 0.  While I can pick at minor quirks, My Army provides a solid pick up and play game that blends elements of many great iOS games before it and offers a fun yet challenging experience that has a compelling “one more turn” hook.

BuyIt

Pros:
+ Quick loads
+ Lots of objectives and achievements for replay value
+ Responsive controls

Cons:
– Facebook integration leads to spamming friends
– Difficulty in the later part of the game can be frustrating

Game Info:
Platform: iOS
Publisher: Bad Puppet
Developer: Distinctive Developments Ltd.
Release Date: 1/21/2012
Genre: Action
Age Rating: 9+
Players: 1
Source: Promo code provided by publisher

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About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.