Five iPhone app games for every kind of real-time strategy gamer

Dec 17, 2009
Games

For today’s real-time strategy gamer, iPhone app games allow them to command armies without having to move up the ranks in the military. Who has time for that? Real-time strategy games have been giving gamers that privilege for years and years now (provided they don’t mind the resource management that goes along with it), and […]

For today’s real-time strategy gamer, iPhone app games allow them to command armies without having to move up the ranks in the military. Who has time for that? Real-time strategy games have been giving gamers that privilege for years and years now (provided they don’t mind the resource management that goes along with it), and the iPhone happily carries on that tradition.

1. Command  & Conquer: Red Alert ($6.99) is a bit of a red herring, but deserves a warning shot to anyone who’s heard of the franchise. The beloved RTS series has been specially adapted to suit the iPhone platform, which unfortunately here means it’s been neutered and tries too hard to look three-dimensional rather than provide any fun. The greater emphasis on combat and adventuring instead of resource- and base-management would be forgivable were it executed well, but it simply doesn’t stick here. When you are allowed to manage bases, you are attacked obscenely early to foster an artificial sense of difficulty; when you are storming the battlefield, the action feels lifeless and dull. Also: Why no Wi-Fi multi-player on a game that was built on facing off against human opponents?

2. Rise Of Lost Empires ($1.99) more than makes up for C&C’s iPhone shortcomings by building on the best parts of one of its competitors: The questing and leveling-up in “Warcraft.” “ROLE”makes no attempts to hide its influence, and polishes up the adaptation by integrating slick user-interface features like the ability to quickly select the main character or your main character and their unwavering soldiers to tag along as well. It’s familiar, sure, but it’s pretty darn solid.

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3. Robocalypse – Mobile Mayhem ($1.99) is a charming attempt to inject some uilding on the best parts of one of its competitors: The questing and leveling-up in “Warcraft.” “ROLE”more character into the genre with an original game specifically for the iPhone. While its attempts at humor usually fall flat (surprising, considering some of the dialog was created by a pair of writers from “Spongebob Squarepants”) and the overall veneer is pretty generic, the iPhone game ultimately gets bogged down in repetition by not offering enough variety. Worse, some of your robots will wander off to die on their own in a misguided attempt at heroism—they might be robots, but they should still await your marching orders before playing cowboy.

4. The Settlers ($6.99) is another port from the PC to the iPhone, and this one thankfully does its forefather proud. Though a game that lets you command the Roman, Viking, and Mayan empires needs to have a lot of breadth, it could stand to be simplified for the format as the sheer amount of units and buildings seems unnecessary for a scheme intended for pick-up-and-go play. It’s great how you can quickly call up any unit you’re looking for via the menus, but it’d also be handy to have a shortcut on where you’re supposed to direct your units on some of the bigger maps. But those are small complaints for a game that puts so much history in your hands.

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5. Galcon Labs (99 cents), the sequel to iGalcon, does the impossible: It makes math intense. An intergalactic version of Risk, “Galcon Labs” pits you against an opposing planet on the other side of the screen, and you both must invade as many planets before your opponent can. The quick addition and subtraction comes in on the actual invasion: Each planet has a number on it, and in order to take hold, you must be able to spare enough ships to take hold. The ships will regenerate over time, but exercising too much caution can do you in if you aren’t as effective as your enemy. A variety of game modes and a super-cheap price make this one a no-brainer to download.

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David Wolinsky

David Wolinsky is the Chicago city editor for The Onion's A.V. Club and is also the  undisputed 1994 Blockbuster store champion at collecting bananas in Donkey Kong Country.

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