Robotanika Hands-On Preview

When a war breaks out between two rival robot factions, one fighting machine has to battle 100 waves of vicious droids. Her name? Peaches.

That’s the basic story behind Robotanika, an Unreal-powered shooter from Sri Lanka-based Dawn Patrol Games. Robotanika is their first game, but they hope that the “robits” characters will be popular enough to support a trilogy of games in the Robotanika universe over the next few years.

You control Peaches, a robot with a variety of weapons. You can fire a basic laser blast by using a touchpad area on the bottom of the screen (so that you don’t cover up your targets with your fingers), and you can tap rapidly in this space to fire even faster. However, this will also cause your blaster to eventually overheat.

In addition, Peaches has three different cannon attacks, which are activated by tapping on tendrils on the left side of the screen, and then again on your target. These have high damage, splash attack, and freezing abilities, and you can upgrade each one in the menu.

Finally, Peaches can activate a shield that will stop certain attacks if you time it correctly. If you hold down on your laser blaster and then tap the shield, you’ll be able to lock your laser in place, freeing up some fingers for the more powerful cannon attacks.

Robotanika certainly feels like a handful, with 100 waves of increasingly challenging enemies that will require you to juggle different attacks. Every few levels, you’ll be introduced to new enemy types in a brief cutscene. The longer you survive in a single play-through, the more credits you’ll earn to upgrade Peaches, but if you die you can always restart at the last wave for another attempt. In-app purchases are an option, but Dawn Patrol tells us they’re not being emphasized as much as playing through the actual game.

While the Unreal Engine is often associated with extremely realistic-looking games like Infinity Blade 2 or Lili, here it’s used to have 15 enemy robots onscreen, with a variety of explosive particle effects. As a result, the environments are rather plain-looking, but we did like the expressive quality of the enemies, and someday they may star in their own iOS game.

With its punishing difficulty and complex tap-to-shoot mechanics, Robotanika looks to be an engaging shooter for iPad owners. We’re less enthusiastic about the graphics, but with 100 waves to blast through, you’ll probably get your $2.99 worth. Robotanika will be available on the iPad 2 and 3 on December 20.

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