There’s always trouble with robots, isn’t there? How can you tell if your burnt coffee is just a matter of you setting up the filter wrong, or perhaps something more malicious, a little clandestine effort on the part of the robot uprising to compromise our productivity. Around robots, watch yourself. At least that’s what I’ve learned from playing Art Castle’s Trouble with Robots (TWR). Released last November as a mobile update to the small PC hit of the same name, TWR brings something new to the field of automaton slaying. Part deck building, part strategy game, part mindless slaughter, it’s definitely a new take on several old ides, but is it worth the space on your iPhone? Read on to find out.
If you’re a flash kiddie, you might have played a game like Trouble with Robots at some point in the past. They seemed to be everywhere on sites like AlbinoBlackSheep and Newgrounds, a series of horizontal lines where your troopers marched single file to their deaths against demons or undead or what have you. TWR follows pretty closely in this line, only your faction is a mix of various allied fantasy creatures repelling an alien robot invasion.
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As I mentioned earlier, TWR is a mix of genres whose gameplay elements bleed over into one another rather nicely. You take on the role of a wizard leading the magical forces of the world against an army of invading robots. You do this with the assistance of a number of magical denizens, from elves and peasant footmen, to centaur mages and dwarven shocktroopers. Your ability to summon units is tied to a meter that’s constantly charging and acts as your currency for spells, attacks, and other special actions.
Before each stage, you build a deck of cards. Cards are everything in TWR, and where the majority of strategy will come in. Cards represent your creatures and spells, powerful abilities that drain your meter, but can have battlefield-changing effects. To get the maximum rankings on some of the higher difficulty level stages, you will need to experiment and maximize the efficiency of your deck. It’s a delicate balancing act of ensuring you’ll have enough units on the board to actually win, and giving them the support of spells against numerically superior enemy waves. Because you have to manage meter, timing becomes key. A well-timed heal or fireball spell can turn the tide of an unfavorable battle, which is absolutely key if you want to really go for the gold and get the maximum possible ranking.
Enemy waves and level progression are linear, beat one level, get a new card, then meet a new enemy who practically forces you to use your newly acquired card. There’s a nice feeling of advancement as you progress, and I never really felt bogged down by a lack of options or means to do something. There is a light RNG element in drawing the appropriate cards form your deck at the right time, but there are enough mitigating factors that it your strategy always shines through. If you plan ahead, you can potentially run through the entire game without losing a single battle.
Combined, it forms a pretty solid package, and once you unlock most of the cards the game truly unfolds. There’s no one dominant strategy to victory, and a good part of the game is seeing a brief description of what you’ll be facing and then building the appropriate deck. It’s a similar feeling to building custom decks in Hearthstone to beat the special bosses of Adventure expansions, plenty of challenge, but not brutally so to the point where your options to have fun and experiment are limited.
Art Castle did a great job with the port of Trouble with Robots, which was originally released as a PC title a few years back. The entire game has had its visual assets redone, making it look beautiful on my bright iPhone screen. The pixel art is mostly fluid, and the only real criticism here would be the lackluster menus compared to the rest of the game (fairly bland looking) and the sometimes stiff enemies. The lion’s share of animation work has definitely gone into making your friendly units look good doing what they do, and it’s only slightly disappointing that the enemies you end up fighting are so boring. Later robots add some variety, but it was largely my mix of brightly colored units smashing into a sea of grey and chrome.
Special features are also somewhat lacking. There’s no avatar or out-of-combat system to track persistence, which does pull you out of the world somewhat. Even if, in all honesty, you’d be a faceless entity no matter what, having some sort of representation of myself within the world would have been nice, something to ground me a little more than “I am a wizard, this is what I do.”
It might also be worthwhile to note that TWR will drain your battery pretty quickly. If you’re playing on older Apple hardware, you will also experience some lag during the more hectic fights. On newer hardware this shouldn’t be much of an issue, but I’d be wary of picking up TWR if you’re rocking anything older than a 4S.
TWR is not a completely free game, but it does not implement micro-transactions either. Rather, you can download the base game and Chapter 1 for free, then choose to pay for Chapters 2 and 3 when you reach them. It’s a good system, essentially giving you a big taste of the game without limiting features as some demos do. If you think TWR is worth supporting, then you will be given that option, and that’s all they’ll ask of you.
Trouble with Robots is a great game, there’s no other way to put it. It’s solid, mechanically ambitious, and most importantly, fun. Whether you want a quick burst session of robot-slaying on the bus, or settling in for some extended gaming, you’ll probably find something to enjoy in the game.
- Innovative, entertaining gameplay
- Beautiful sprite work
- Balanced for quick or lengthy play sessions
- Heavy drain on older iOS models