Review: Robocalypse

Robocalypse.jpgWhen you hear the words ‘handheld RTS’, how should you respond? Until recently my response would have been to run for the hills, but with Anno 1701: Dawn of Discovery released early last year and now Robocalypse, perhaps there is hope!

When you think of the Real-Time Strategy genre, you think of a fairly small set of visual presentation and gameplay styles. You probably also think of a fairly serious plot that ends up with you in command of a large force that needs to be micromanaged in order to save the world and so on. Robocalypse looks to change that. Scripted by two writers from SpongeBob SquarePants, Robocalypse takes a dark comedic look at everything, which is a refreshing change for a genre that tends to take itself way too seriously.

The story goes like this: something goes wrong at a factory building toasters and robots, and they all end up with a desire to wage war and destroy mankind. A plan is hatched to develop new robots and implant the minds of retired World War II officers, thereby enabling the new robots to use superior strategy to achieve victory. Of course, this is where things get fun – you get a bunch of quirky robots with crazy personalities running around as robots, some not very pleased with the situation!

The graphics are stylized and look wonderful on the DS screens, and there is never any slowdown in the action. Graphics have a fun cartoon look that goes perfectly with the story and animation style. The overall presentation works very well – music and sound and the touch-screen controls all interact perfectly to keep you in the game at all times.

Gameplay is fairly typical for a RTS despite the different trappings: you start with some basic robots to take into battle. Then you collect scraps from the robots you defeat and what rewards you gain, then you use those to improve your robots and build even stronger robots so you can go out and battle more enemy robots and so on. The scale and scope of battles is much smaller than in a typical PC RTS, as is to be expected. There is humor here as well – the units and armor all have funny names and unique behavior, such as Falling Anvils and the Head Crackin’ Gauntlets.

Despite the quirky style and refreshing storytelling, the RTS gameplay is perhaps the weakest part of the game – you don’t directly command units or groups, you place command flags to direct units in certain areas to behave certain ways. The AI for your allies works very well, but can be too independent at times – you often feel like you are observing the game rather than actually playing.

Robocalypse is a fairly lengthy game with 17 missions in the single player campaign. Each mission has primary objectives as well as secrets and secondary objectives and other things to find, adding some replayability to the campaign. There is also a multiplayer mode that allows up to four players with copies of the game to battle head-to-head with their robot armies. It is unfortunate that there is no ‘download play’ mode, as that would do a great job of spreading the word about this fun game.

One of the best things in my life is listening to my kids get swept up in real belly-laughs. When I played Robocalypse I smiled often and occasionally chuckled – but with my kids huddled around the game the laughs came often and became infectious. This game is hilarious! At the same time it steers clear of being too immature to attract a larger audience. Robocalypse is definitely one of the under-appreciated games of the ’08 fall release season – lost in the sea of over-hyped and under-performing big-budget releases, this little gem deserves attention now that the post-holiday slowdown has come. So if you have a DS, and are up for a game with some fun gameplay and loads of laughs, go ahead and grab this one!

BuyIt.jpg

Pros:
+ Exciting gameplay
+ Absolutely hilarious
+ AI takes care of things for you

Cons:
- Gameplay lacks distinctive feel
- Lack of control over forces

Game Info:
Platform: DS
Publisher: Tecmo
Developer: Vogster Entertainment
Release Date: 11/17/08
Genre: RTS
ESRB Rating: E10+
Players: 1-4

About the Author

I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!