When you’re a microscopic creature, the world is a big place. There should be room for everybody, right? Shouldn’t peace and harmony prevail? Think again.
Amoebattle portrays a world at war, where life is a struggle and protozoans regularly blast each other out of existence. As a newly assigned microbiologist, it’s your job to observe the the amoebas and protect them from a mysterious threat. With the aid of your trusty artificial intelligence AMI, you’ll order amoebas around, mutate them into new forms, and deploy probes with a variety of special powers.
The premise owes more to Starcraft than science, but the amoebas are pleasant little creatures. There are nine varieties to play with, introduced gradually over the twelve campaign missions. There’s not a lot of differences between them, but herbivores have a ranged weapon, carnivores excel at melee, and omnivores are heavily armored defensive units.
It’s easy to distinguish the units on the screen, and you control them with a series of taps and swipes. You can select multiple units by drawing a circle around them, and switch quickly between up to four distinct groups. That’s all the control a real-time strategy fan is going to need, especially since the orders are limited. Your amoebas can go places, attack specific targets, split into copies of themselves, and mutate into new forms. There’s no building, guarding, or waypoints, but you won’t miss that layer of complexity.
As is usual for the genre, the early missions are tutorials. Your ‘artificial intelligence’ sidekick teaches the game well, and we like how it offers to give more detailed explanations of concepts. New players can get all the information they need, while RTS fans can skip over what they already know. Good tutorials are hard to make, and Grab put time and thought into this one.
The missions are also well-designed. AMI assigns you a variety of activities, from exploring the map and fighting rival amoebas to sneaking past enemies, guarding key points and escorting other units. There are even some clever missions that encourage you to use the environment against your enemies. Each objective is clearly introduced, and cut scenes provide information and drama by showing you what’s going on elsewhere on the map.
Fire when ready.
That said, the missions are long, taking 20 or 30 minutes to complete. That’s not unusual for a desktop RTS game, but Amoebattle is not complex enough to keep missions of that length from becoming repetitive. We got the feeling that the designer compensated for having a short campaign by stuffing each map with as many encounters as possible, but 18 shorter missions would have been more fun than 12 half-hour missions.
It doesn’t help that sometimes the number of enemies is set so high that the best strategy is to fight a small group, then put the game aside for a few minutes while your units regain health. When putting your device down while you wait for progress on your game starts looking like a good idea, something’s wrong.
Fortunately, there is an easy-to-use save system, so you can take breaks without losing your progress. There are also achievements to reward you for beating the missions with unusual strategies. That adds much-needed replayability, since there are no multiplayer or random battle options.
Amoebattle looks and sounds great. The pastel colors and lively music keep the tone light but not silly. The game is also fun, and while the complexity may put casual players off, RTS fans will have a good time saving the protozoic world.