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For: iPhone   Also on: iPad

Do the robot

Product: Gizmonauts | Developer: Backflip Studios | Format: iPhone | Genre: Casual | Players: 1 | Networking: wireless (network) | Version: Europe | App version: 1.0.1
Gizmonauts iPhone, thumbnail 1
This is a freemium game review, in which we give our impressions immediately after booting a game up, again after three days, and finally after seven days. That's what the strange sub-headings are all about.

Backflip Studios has returned to the free-to-play scene, hoping to top its previous smash hit freemium release DragonVale with a game about building a colony in outer space.

Not only does Gizmonauts come to us from an established powerhouse of the freemium and casual gaming worlds, but it features adorable, big-eyed robots that fight in arena-style battles. In other words, it has 'hit' written all over it.

First Impressions

The game's world (or should that be colony?) is detailed and full of character, even when you only have a couple of Zones. These Zones are the equivalent of buildings or factories from other similar games: you use them to make money, create Snax (robot food, apparently), breed more robots, and so on.

Everything is sharp and cleanly designed, with hints of WALL-E and Digimon permeating the graphics and sound effects. The one problematic element is the default viewing distance - it's simply too high, and you'll need to zoom-in a bit each time to take everything in.

However, teething problems with Gizmonauts's network structure really put a dampener on my first day of play. I couldn't load up my colony for several hours at a time, and when I could it was a slow process.

Still, while I was pushing past these issues the gameplay experience itself was decent, if not particularly inspiring. It's a city builder, with most of the systems that come with that particular genre: waiting for Zones to be constructed, limited cash resources, and crystals to speed up processes and purchase premium goods.

3 days: not a lot of space, in space

By now I'm deeper into the game, and it's started to open up a little, showing off a few more of the gameplay features that distinguish it from more run-of-the-mill stablemates.

There are goals to accomplish, and these are handed out regularly, updating after you've completed a set number of tasks, or a certain amount of time has passed.

Instead of funnelling you towards spending money, they push you towards completing the game for free by highlighting the importance of constantly building new Zones and expanding if you want to keep playing.

Expansion quickly becomes a necessity. You'll need to build out within a few days of starting as the amount of space you begin with is minuscule in relation to the voluminous buildings you can acquire and fill with 'bots.

At this stage, these mini-mechanicals have really crept into my consciousness - they're just so endearing. As you feed them Snax they level-up and evolve into newer, much larger creatures. You can also kit them out with accessories, which adds another personal touch to the game.

The robot scientists among you may be scratching your heads at my use of the word 'evolve'. In Gizmonauts it's possible to breed two of your robots and create a new one. It's a strange (and terrifying) concept, but it allows access to more prestigious robots that you would otherwise have to purchase with the premium cost crystals.

7 days: still hampered by technology

Load times by this point aren't much better than a few days ago, which is a disappointment. It can take too long to get into the game proper, and occasionally it fails on the first attempt, requiring another tap to retry.

It's a real pity, because by now I've a large-ish sized colony, filled with activity. Gizmonauts places the emphasis on your inhabitants much more than other games of its ilk, and in doing so it lets you feel a greater sense of attachment to them.

Not enough attachment to prevent you from sending your robots into arena combat, though. Battles are automated, and generally the team with the highest level characters will win - much like in Pokemon. Free crystals, Snax, and other bits and bobs are among your prizes should you triumph.

Gizmonauts is a lovely little title. It's appealing to look at, full of personality, and even manages to add a few extra layers to an otherwise standard exercise in freemium world-building. The technical issues are annoying, the pace of advancement may be too sedate, and it's a little too safe, but otherwise this is another well-presented, robust entry to the genre.

How are you getting on with the game? Have any tips and tricks to share with us? Let us know by leaving a lovely little comment in the box below.
Reviewer photo
Peter Willington | 14 November 2012
While it doesn't redefine what a city builder can be, Gizmonauts does add a couple of new systems to the formula - looking sharp all the while
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