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iPhone  header logo

Rogue Planet

For: iPhone

A strategy game to make Sarah Palin proud

Product: Rogue Planet | Developer: Agharta Studio | Publisher: Gameloft | Format: iPhone | Genre: Strategy | Players: 1-2 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: US | App version: 1.0.0
Rogue Planet iPhone, thumbnail 1
Rogue nation, rogue vice presidential candidate, Rogue Planet - one of these things is not like the others. The radical expectations that come with the first two run contrary to the conventional turn-based tactical gameplay of Rogue Planet.

Familiar design keeps the game safe and playable, yet prevents it from staking an original claim in a competitive genre.

Rogue Planet takes you aboard the intergalactic ship the Nimah as it returns to Earth following a decades-long mission.

No Welcome Home banners for this crew - the planet has been plunged into a communications blackout and no trace of human life is detected on the ship's scanners. As a landing party discovers, however, Earth still holds life - it just happens to be artificial.

Shoot to kill

Battling these sentient robots is done in turns, the game's tactical combat mirroring handheld standard bearer Advance Wars. Rogue Planet does a commendable job with the formula, but scant embellishment results in unremarkable gameplay. It lacks new ideas and, despite beautiful artwork, bears a plain personality.

Varied objectives among the 19 campaign missions ensure fresh scenarios, even if the battles come off stale. New units are sparsely introduced and underwhelming in their unoriginality. No chances have been taken with the unit designs, Rogue Planet opting for convention over uniqueness.

Without original tactical elements, however, these familiar units play out on an all-too familiar stage. Rogue Planet does nothing to differentiate itself in terms of tactical gameplay from others in the genre - instead, it squanders opportunities to branch out with new ideas.

For example, the game openly admits that its day-night cycle has no impact on battle. Nightfall should bring a change to the battlefield, something to spice things up - not just some shadows across the screen for a couple of turns.

Level playing field

Special powers attached to commanding officers are a noted attempt at deepening gameplay. Since you're unable to effectively control when these powers activate, though, there's hardly anything strategic about their use.

Moreover, some powers are so nuanced that their influence in battle is hardly felt. The long range attack capability of Snakes is so strong, for instance, that Meredith's special power that boosts their attack by 50 per cent is superfluous. Instead of augmenting attack power, her special ability should extend their range.

Good level design does provide an outlet for tactical liberty. Even with its stock of conventional units and familiar mechanics, the game possesses carefully crafted levels that encourage strategic thinking.

Too many scenarios in the campaign feature tricks that given an advantage to one side, but that's less the case when it comes to Quick Play and local wi-fi multiplayer modes where 15 additional maps have been designed with freedom in mind. Big open areas, varied terrain and a few bottlenecks tease the possibilities.

Almost there

The same almost-there quality is evident in the controls. Confirming actions and menu items is easy enough, but cancelling commands and deselecting units is nowhere near as intuitive.

Double-tapping on an empty space on the map serves to drop you out of whatever menu or unit you're working with. However, it would be best to include a return or cancel option in each menu.

Other minor shortcomings with the interface - small text in some menus and nearly hidden options for visiting decks aboard the Nimah between missions - also keep the game from being completely smooth.

Such cursory complaints don't destroy Rogue Planet. Of greater concern is the game's conventional approach, the seeming lack of desire to try new ideas. Without unique gameplay to extend the appeal beyond its pretty artwork, it's lock-step with the genre's more independent standard bearers.
Rogue Planet
Reviewer photo
Tracy Erickson | 26 November 2009
A pretty and playable turn-based tactics game that needs to go rogue and break from genre conventions with new ideas and fresher gameplay
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