Robocalypse Hands-On

We try to save humanity from killer robots in this point-and-tap real-time strategy game for the Nintendo DS.


From Jay Lender, the writer and director of SpongeBob Squarepants, and his writing partner Micah Wright comes Robocalypse, a story about the consequences of having a factory that produces robots, as well as next-generation toasters. A real-time strategy game developed for the Nintendo DS, Robocalypse allows you to control your own army of robots to battle the evil Demolisher and his minions before they destroy the entire world. This silly story unfolds with each mission and features easy to manage troops for newcomers to the RTS genre.

Robots, though violent and incapable of emotion, are often quite helpful.
Robots, though violent and incapable of emotion, are often quite helpful.

The story begins in Thermidoom factory, where its two-day record of being accident free has ended when a slight mishap has caused the robots to go haywire. Luckily, Myron Mako, the bucktoothed geek on staff can create a new batch of robots using brain scans from World War II veterans who happen to be randomly available. With his new army and a "Robo-Controller" (which looks very much like a DS), Myron takes on the evil Demolisher one mission at a time. There is a colorful cast of characters, including Mr. Yellin, the busty blond professor named Flaxen Hayer (get it?), and a self-absorbed government agent named Roger Smashteeth--neither of whom do much in terms of helping you, but they are there to provide entertainment.

Robocalypse uses the basic elements of an RTS but leaves out the finer details of micromanagement. Before each battle, you are given primary and secondary mission objectives to complete. There may also be secret objectives where if you manage to meet them, you'll get a bonus when it comes to upgrading your heroes. Mission types include defending a base, escorting the lovely Professor Hayer to safety, or protecting an orphanage from the onslaught of evil robots. You start off with a headquarters where you can generate a builder robot that will collect resources for you while you build structures that can then churn out combat units and medics. Builders collect scrap metal, but you also need batteries to build specialized robots. There are control points at various locations on the map, and if you can gain control of that area, you'll have access to nearby energy supplies. The total number of robots you control will also increase if you gain control of the area. There are platforms located around your base where you can choose what kind of building to erect, and buildings can only be constructed on these platforms.

There are two types of robots on the field, including basic robots that you control through action flags and heroes that you control individually. Your basic robots include: builder, soldier, medic, and heavy soldier. The heroes are robots with special abilities and advanced weapons that you can upgrade in between missions. When a hero dies, its experience is also saved, and because there are six different heroes, each time you bring a particular one back, it will have all its upgrades as though it never left. You can build heroes by having a hero factory, which can produce six types with a maximum of three heroes hanging out on the battlefield at any given time. Basic robots are controlled through action flags, which appear at the bottom right of your touch screen. When you tap the action flag icon and anywhere on the screen, neighboring robots will heed your command until the job is done. Once it's done, the flag disappears, and you can have up to five flags at a time. You can also have your troops defend a base by selecting the shield icon on your touch screen, and your robots will obediently stay until they're defeated. What's nice about the action flag is that the robots will do their respective jobs, so you don't have to tell the medic to heal the robots; they will do it on their own and stay away from the fighting.

The controls are all touch-screen based, so it's really easy to issue commands with the tap of a stylus while using the D pad to navigate around the map. The top screen displays the map and your unit information. The bottom screen is your battlefield where you can tap and drag to look around. The overall look of the game is on the goofy side because the story unfolds like a wacky cartoon during the dialogue sequences--much like SpongeBob. On the battlefield, individual units also have a lot of detail and look like little action figures milling about, doing their thing. The music and sound help emphasize the zaniness, keeping the mood lighthearted and fun.

Controlling your army of robots is as simple as tapping the screen with your stylus and hoping they don't stage a robo-mutiny.
Controlling your army of robots is as simple as tapping the screen with your stylus and hoping they don't stage a robo-mutiny.

There will also be two multiplayer modes with unique maps where you can play with up to four friends via DS multicard play. You can play cooperatively or head-to-head and then track your progress in the Hall of Fame. In the Deathmatch mode, the goal is to destroy your enemy's headquarters, whereas in Domination mode, you can aim to capture the most control points to win.

Robocalypse is a quirky portable RTS with a sense of humor that is evident from the writing. The gameplay mechanics are easy to learn, and there are three difficulty settings for those who want to challenge themselves. Check back soon to find out exactly what these robots can do when the game ships in October.

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