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For: iPad   Also on: Android

Less than the sum of its parts

Product: Rigonauts | Developer: Engient | Format: iPad | Genre: Strategy | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Rigonauts iPad, thumbnail 1
Anyone who remembers the TV series Scrapheap Challenge from its early noughties heyday will know all about the disconnect between the planning and the execution stage of a hasty construction project.

Like a real life version of The A-Team, two teams would have to build a fantastic contraption out of assorted scrap parts in order to carry out a specific task.

When it worked it was brilliant stuff, but too often the final practical application of these contraptions failed to live up to expectations.

It's a fitting illustration for Rigonauts.

Where's Dick Strawbridge when you need him?

Instead of a chirpy game show presented by that bloke out of Red Dwarf, Rigonauts is all about freeing an alien race from the attentions of their former oppressors.

You must help your little crew of goblin-type creatures to bolt various materials and weapons to their tiny ship in order to be fit for battle.

Faced with a variety of elaborate enemy tanks, you must identify their weak points and modify your craft in order to exploit them.

This is achieved through a simple drag and drop system, which enables you to add protective screens made of wood, metal, and bone, or to erect gun platforms brimming with cannons, guns, and lasers.

You can also add wheels and shock absorbers for when the terrain gets a little more challenging.

Constructive criticism

Deathmobile built, it's time to enter the combat phase. This is a disappointingly hands-off affair, as you watch the two (or more - sometimes you'll be ganged up on) tanks go at each other using basic AI.

You can set priority targets before each round, so that your crew concentrates on a vulnerable wheel or supporting pillar, but otherwise you're at the mercy of the game's rudimentary AI and unpredictable physics.

This gives each level a free-wheeling feel that's initially entertaining, but the amount of luck at play can also lead to frustration.

Having failed at a level a few times I idly stuck shock absorbers onto my vehicle, which caused it to topple onto its side. Bizarrely, this turned my craft into a slow-moving wall of guns, leading to an unexpected rout of the enemy.

Amusing? Yes. Oddly unsatisfying and irritating? Most definitely.

Rigo mortis

Rigonauts simply doesn't reward experimentation sufficiently. Thanks to limited resources, you'll hit upon an efficient template for a craft and simply make minor modifications according to the opposition.

As such, successive levels tend to feel a little samey as you apply the same basic lessons learned to each scenario. Put simply, it all gets a little boring - especially when you have to restart multiple times.

Rigonauts feels like a solid physics engine waiting for a more balanced, entertaining, and fleshed out game to be built on top of it. It's always diverting, but its execution rarely matches the potential of its raw materials.
Reviewer photo
Jon Mundy | 16 April 2013
A promising construction system allied to solid physics that never quite forms into a wholly satisfying game
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