How to better understand our robot overlords in five iPhone app games

Jan 3, 2010
Games

The year 2010 is here, and while many are bemoaning the fact that hovercars, pills in meals, and robot maids are still distant sci-fi fantasies, guess what: The robot apocalypse is still upon us. They’re just lulling us meatbags into a false sense of security. To better understand our robot overlords, here are five iPhone app […]

The year 2010 is here, and while many are bemoaning the fact that hovercars, pills in meals, and robot maids are still distant sci-fi fantasies, guess what: The robot apocalypse is still upon us. They’re just lulling us meatbags into a false sense of security. To better understand our robot overlords, here are five iPhone app games that will help us humans garner their respect, and maybe someday, their love.

iDroidsMania (99 cents) reminds us that robots have romantic problems, too. You play as the dashing Haxx, a shiny droid with a third arm that can extend from his chest compartment, in his quest to rescue his wife Pixie from the brutish BAD RAMM. There’s a nice Popeye vibe to this title, though you’ll be swinging around and disarming enemies with your extendable arm instead of downing spinach. Everyone loves an underdog, and iDroidsMania faithfulness to old 8-bit scrollers will warm more than a few non-mechanical hearts in this throwback—even if the controls can occasionally be a bit wonky.

The same could be said for Bomber Online ($3.99), and if that name sounds familiar, there’s a good reason: This is pretty much a slick update of the classic Bomberman, though with the nice option for five-person online multi-player. The sticky controls can cause more than a few accidental deaths in the wake of your own strategically placed bombs, but the online play is buttery smooth—almost suspiciously so. While it’s unwise to question our robotic superiors, the same should go for curiously velvety and lag-free gaming. There’s also an adventure mode if multi-player doesn’t appeal to you, but that’s kind of missing the point of the main attraction here.

Another reason not to question robots: They can be suicidal and very explosive—not something you exactly want near you. Kamikaze Robots (99 cents) is a racing game of sorts, letting you control a rejected robot not up to snuff, which is trying to prove his worth by, uh, bouncing down a hill as far as possible before exploding. This is done by making sure you land on your feet—the more you miss your mark, the more parts that fall off. Lose all your limbs, and you get one last chance to get more distance: By ejecting your head from your torso. There’s a marathon mode that lets you compete against other mechanical rejects and invest in additional gears to increase bouncing and endurance, but the end result is the same every time.

Robo Ki (99 cents) explains why we should fear robots: They’re content to beat up all other robots in sight, no matter how boring or repetitive it might get. Humans will probably feel otherwise—the different moves you can execute with a simple button don’t replace the sheer amount of variety or imagination missing from this title. That it arbitrarily will completely freeze doesn’t help. There are simply better ways of getting things to explode on an iPhone—your temper while playing a game shouldn’t be one of them.

And then there’s the old standby Voltron ($3.99). Nostalgia will probably cloud a lot of gamer’s view of this iPhone app game, but it certainly is faithful to the cartoon adapted from the Japanese anime. With the three-quarters overhead view and cheesy dialogue, this easily feels like an update of an old Super Nintendo game—another pull on the heart strings. Though the controls are clunky—which makes sense, though, considering you’re navigating gigantic robots—there’s lots to do in 30 levels that encourage exploration. Combining to form Voltron is the least of it.

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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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