A really good strategy game is hard to come by these days. Or so it seems to me. There are so many different games in the genre that one would think that there should be SOMETHING that would appeal to everyone. OK. Perhaps that is too much of an improbability, but there are games out there that have garnered attention from fans of the different genres. So, if you are looking for an accessible strategy game, I think I have found a real-time strategy game that will fit perfectly into your Nintendo DS: Robocaylpse.
It all started when some of the most destructive war machines in the world got the wrong code. They were not programmed to start doing peaceful things and instead received the “nice” code instead of the “mean” code. “That doesn’t sound too bad,” you’re probably thinking. There is one major problem with this: Instead of joining the Peace Corp, they decide to kindly eliminate the human race with a smile. So it is up to Myron Mako to take control of robots infused with the valor of World War II veterans. If this sounds highly quirky to you, it is. The fourth wall is constantly broken, and it never takes itself too seriously. The game’s humor is something along the lines of “I cannot believe how silly these people are!” Plus, the story is told in a comic-like feel that perfectly goes along with the zaniness of the game. Some will like this; others will not. I think it is hilarious — most of the time.
Graphically, the game is bright and colorful with its cartoon feel. Rusted cars and RVs are seen all over the place. Robots move slowly and purposefully around the game’s various maps. Robots and heroes have different visual quirks and looks. Medics look like surgeons, soldiers look like army men, builders feel reminiscent of peons from other RTS games and heavy soldiers look, well, heavy. Distinguishing units is easy: The player’s side is green, and the enemy is red. The top screen (which can be switched at a push of a button) holds an overview of the map (it also shows units of both sides using dots, provided you’ve uncovered the proper part of the map), lists of units, resources and the number of “space” available for new recruits.
With this in mind, this is a traditional RTS. Build units, gather resources, build some more buildings, figure out how to properly use the hero units for the current mission and then destroy everything in sight. Thus, the traditional requirements for an RTS game are included. But unlike other RTS games, Robocalypse sacrifices complexity and a bit of control for parsimony by using the touchscreen.
So what does this mean? Well, you can directly control your hero units, but your everyday units are told what to do using different types of flags. So instead of telling each unit what to do, the flags are there to help save you some grief as you can direct them all where to move and what enemy unit to destroy and where to stand their ground. But don’t think this game is easy — far from it. I played this game on “medium,” a difficulty setting that is usually just right for me, and my units’ butts were kicked HARD most of the time. How did I overcome this difficulty? No, I fall back to easy (though the thought often entered my mind). I learned the different tactics of the enemy and the scripted events that would occur each and every time. It takes a great deal of patience, but it was frustrating to learn when my tail was between my legs every eight to 10 minutes or so.
Sound is rather decent. Guns are heard as units exchange fire (thankfully, there is no friendly fire), restorative healing beams are heard from the medics and hero units shout their catchphrase whenever their special ability is used. Unfortunately, the same few tunes are heard over and over again. This is not to say that the melodies are bad, but it is a shame that there isn’t more variety. Plus, other than the heroes shouting war cries, there is no voice acting. On the plus side, at least there is no awkwardly read dialogue. This means that if you turn down the volume, you’re not missing much.
Overall, Robocalpse is done really well. Various areas of the game shine with the high degree of polished that the developers gave it. This is one of those rare games that you can just plunge right into the DS and play without reading the manual. It is that intuitive. And the game really goes out of its way to make sure that it is teaching you how to play. Each level is built upon the last one. So if you can work your way through the difficulty it, it quickly becomes a highly rewarding experience to pummel the enemy into gears and bolts.
If any of this sounds interesting, go check it out. There is something to appeal to every level of gamer. It is intuitive enough for beginners and difficult and complex enough for expert RTS fans. It is not that perfect mix of chocolate and machine, but it comes darn close. Robocalypse fits perfectly into any gamer’s library, regardless of skill level. How many strategy games can make that claim?