In Grab’s colorful world of Amoebattle, your primary mission is to fulfill the role of a budding microbiologist by gathering the battle spoils of scientific data for the ultimate goal of defeating an infection that is running rampant through the world. Led by your cheeky artificially intelligent assistant AMI (who bears a resemblance to the iconic Reddit alien), you and your army of amoebae (you guessed it) do battle against a slew of microscopic predators using RTS-style maneuvers.
Amoebattle is the latest creation of Grab, a company that has been building an impressive repertoire of mobile titles over the past few years, such as Bloons Tower Defense 4 and BrainBuster. Grab is headed up by Anthony Borquez, the former VP of a little company called Konami; the video game giant’s stylistic influence is apparent throughout Grab’s library, and Ameobattle is no exception. The game not only offers a singular premise for an RTS but is rife with creative flair.
The orchestral soundtrack and visually stimulating watercolor-esque art style immediately set the scene for this delightfully addicting game. But one of the smartest aspects of Amoebattle is its sharp control scheme. While some hardcore gamers might balk at the idea of touchscreen controls for the RTS genre, the Amoebattle development team has simplified gameplay to take the frustration out of small screens and big fingers. Off-field buttons allow you to tap to select or deselect sets of units, while intuitive gestures, swipes, and holds help to refine your selections and battle actions.
Each mission begins with a different set of amoebae from which you, as a microbiologist, literally grow your army. By defeating enemies and snacking on the world’s microflora, you gain the stat points necessary to replicate your amoebae. Achieving “Well Fed” status gives an amoeba the ability to become two, and so on, for a maximum platoon of 25 multidisciplinary amoebae.
As you progress through Amoebattle missions, you gather DNA fragments from defeated enemies, and eventually build genomes as blueprints for mutating your own amoebae. Each type of amoeba has a different set of skills and stats, allowing you to create an epic microscopic army suited to each of the game’s twelve missions. This aspect of diversifying your army by triumphing over foes has a Pokémon-esque vibe, inspiring you to catch all of the game’s nine creatures. Some creatures are capable of long-range attacks, while others are more suited to melee moves or special attacks. The introduction of Probes in Mission 2 further expands the tactics available to your army, allowing you such strategic advantages as slowing foes and inflicting poison.
The interactive environments and varied mission parameters help to fully immerse you in the world of Amoebattle. For example, Mission 2 requires you to protect data-gathering probes from waves of attacking foes over a palpably real time period. Other missions offer puzzles that require careful strategic analysis, while yet others offer good ol’ fashioned stand-offs. Far too may strategy games suffer from a lack of variety when it comes to level design; halfway through the game, it can feel like you’re just fighting the same battles mission after mission (the Fire Emblem franchise comes to mind here), but not so with Amoebattle. On the contrary, Amoebattle’s missions, objectives and map designs are so varied and unique that, if anything, the game becomes increasingly difficult to put down as you progress towards the final missions.
Unfortunately for some players with older phones, larger battles equate to greater lag. The sprite slowdown isn’t an issue for more powerful mobile processors, but it can render the game unplayable on older devices. Multitouch capability is also a must for Amoebattle; otherwise, you’re left tapping the mini-map to move your camera around the map, which is an ultimately clumsy and inaccurate way to proceed in a genre that requires both speed and accuracy.
The lack of multiplayer is another aspect that leaves something to be desired, and this critic shaking her head. Amoebattle is limited to a linear campaign mode, and (aside from little-used Google+ achievements) offers no incentive for replay. If Grab decided to open Amoebattle up for MMO play, the game could easily skyrocket from “played it, liked it” to a place of longevity in gamer hearts en masse.
But don’t let these objections ruin your first play through; Amoebattle is definitely a rarity among mobile RTSs that is well worth the investment. The fun and engaging gameplay more than makes up for the game’s multiplayer shortcomings, and the aesthetic experience of the art and soundtrack do well to add another dimension of enjoyment the microscopic world. You can spend 99 cents at your local fast food joint on a lamp-heated burger that you demolish in a minute, or you can spend 99 cents to beat the organelles out of some microscopic prey for a solid few hours. The burger ranks about ½ star out of 5 in this critic’s book, while Amoebattle earns a far-tastier score.
Amoebattle is aesthetically pleasing and fun for all ages, while still remaining an engaging and challenging real-time strategy game for hardcore gaming veterans.