iPhone gaming is exploding right now, enough that big console game makers are adding App Store titles to their arsenal.
Count Vogster among those on the front line with its first iPhone game, Robocalypse - Mobile Mayhem, primed to launch later this year. It's redeployed from an original Nintendo DS release, and we went hands on exclusively with this hilarious real-time strategy game that loads up on both substance and style.
Robocalypse chronicles a crazy war against a maniacal machine called the Demolisher. Electronics company Thermidoom accidentally crosses manufacturing lines on its factory floor, resulting in military robots being oufitted with computer chip-enabled toasters.
Arising from the mishap, the diminuitive Demolisher vows to take over the world with his newfound army of smart toaster-equipped soldiers.
It just so happens that the only person who can turn the Demolisher into toast is geeky programmer Myron Mako. With the president of Thermidoor screaming in one ear and fellow programmer and femme fatale Flaxen Hayer making sarcastic remarks in the other, Myron must deploy his own sentient robots against the Demolisher's forces.
The single player campaign spans well over a dozen missions steeped in base building, resource collection, and battlefield tactics. Robocalypse transforms these classic elements of real-time strategy, however, into sensible new forms. These are joined by a slew of technical improvements exclusive to iPhone, ranging from enhanced audio, polished graphics, and an enhanced interface that allows greater flexibility.
Complexity has been abandoned in favour of accessibility, with resource collection automated and base building streamlined. Builder units, which are drafted from your headquarters, harvest scrap metal and fuel automatically as soon as they arrive on the scene.
These resources can then be spent to develop construction platforms into various buildings such as robot factories that pump out combat units and resource banks that increase production. Since the number of construction platforms is limited in each level, you're free to concentrate on strategy.
Hero units, like the brawny Commando Joe and calculating Viper the Sniper, are easily directed on the battlefield with taps of your finger.
Issuing orders to subordinate units, however, is done indirectly via action flags. You can directly control any hero unit, but others only respond to the flags you set down.
Robocalypse wisely avoids any potential difficulty with unit selection through this mechanic - no lasso, no groups, just taps to issue movement and attack orders. You can even plunk down 'defend' flags that tell your units to secure a specific area.
Challenging missions require you to leverage this mechanic in creative ways. In one campaign mission, you're tasked with defending a base from encroaching forces. Capturing control points helps secure the perimeter, as well as building a standing army of robotic soldiers and medics that can heal afflicted units.
Setting defend flags at key points boosts your chance of victory. Other missions have you raiding enemy robot factories and working to keep the Demolisher's soldiers from raiding a vital resource mine.
The missions themselves are intentionally short: around 15 minutes. Replay value comes from the slew of hidden items and secondary objectives that grant additional experience for upgrading your hero units, as well as local wireless multiplayer supporting up to four players.
It's the latter that has us eager for the game's release: free-for-all Domination and Deathmatch rounds, and even team play with 2 versus 2 or 1 versus 3 action.
All of this is wrapped up in a comic style that sets Robocalypse apart from its more serious counterparts. Kooky scenarios and snappy dialogue amplify what already looks to be an entertaining strategy game. If the apocalypse promises this much fun, then we can't wait for judgment day to come.