In 2010, Robot Unicorn Attack was everywhere. Erasure’s signature synthpop ballad blasted out of PC speakers and drifted into the streets. Amazon was overwhelmed with requests for replacement “x” and “z” keys. Fewer dreams were coming true than ever before. It was a phenomenon.
Since then, there have been several iterations of Robot Unicorn—Heavy Metal, Christmas, and Evolution (in terms of quality: neigh, neigh, and yea, respectively). The latest and greatest in the series is Robot Unicorn Attack 2. Forget everything you thought you knew about Robot Unicorns, because this game takes it to the next level.
First off, I never thought in a million years I would call anything animated by Adult Swim “visually stunning,” but that’s really the only way to put it. Unlike the crude cartoony look of the original, RUA2 is beautifully drawn. The background is replete with craters and cascading waterfalls and castles in the sky. Though the artists use a pretty wide color palette, the environment never feels overwrought. Even when the occasional whale/unicorn hybrid floats by, sounding its whale/unicorn call, it isn’t jarring at all. It’s like a friend you didn’t even know you were waiting to meet.
The unicorn you control is now customizable, and the upgrades all look really cool and vibrant. Give it a lightning mane to allow for more consecutive jumps. Equip it with a horn like the Void Piercer, and dash for a longer length. There are six unicorns to choose from that run at different speeds, with looks that vary from My Little Pony-robot to terminator-esque to stormtrooper-chic.
By having upgrades that unlock at certain levels and creating missions that enable you to level up, Adult Swim Games has made a classically addicting game even more addictive. The missions are a good balance of easy-but-time-consuming (dash 125 stars in any number of wishes) and challenging-but-rewarding (dash seven giants in a single wish). The platform layout changes every day, so a way to incorporate strategy is to keep in mind that certain missions are more conducive to specific layouts. Another new aspect of RUA is that in every world there are three different paths you can take—the lower level, the upper level, or the space in between. This means that you can either try to get really good at one path by memorizing the route, or break up the monotony of your runs by taking a road less travelled.
It’s trendy now to include multiplayer features in mobile apps, so it’s not a surprise Robot Unicorn hopped on the bandwagon. You can choose to represent either Team Rainbow or Team Inferno, and whichever team busts up more stars and giants that day earns bonus unicorn tears (the in-app currency). The problem is that there are no limits on how many people can play for each team, so it just ends up being that whichever side has the most players will win—FYI, it’s always Team Inferno. Since there’s no incentive to switch over to Team Rainbow (ironically enough, the dark horse), each day brings no suspense for either side. Robot Unicorn would do better to admit that it’s not a multiplayer game, and doesn’t need to be.
The game’s mechanics work as they should. As with the original, the controls are simple and perfectly responsive. Really the only thing that disappointed me during gameplay was the fact that certain features didn’t upgrade dramatically enough to change the feel of a run. For example, the difference between having horns with a “moderate dash length” and a “long dash length” is pretty negligible. And even though I like the addition of flying unicorns, using wings with a quick ascension felt no different than wings with a graceful ascension. This is not to say that there are no tangible differences in upgrades across the board, but the pill to swallow here is that leveling up won’t make your runs that much easier. There’s no secret recipe to build an all-powerful robot unicorn.
At the end of the day, that’s how the game stays true to its roots. Right before the level starts, the words YOU WILL FAIL flash on the screen. And let’s be real, failure is inevitable. The term “endless runner” is inherently paradoxical. There is always an end. As you gallop further and further in RUA2, the game doesn’t only speed up—it zooms out. Your unicorn becomes progressively smaller, and you don’t feel so majestic any more. You’re just a cog in a machine, and eventually you’re going to short out. The question is, can you break the high score chart before that happens? You have three wishes to find out.
Now and always.
Robot Unicorn Attack 2 gives the original a fresh coat of paint and she’s a real beaut. A little over-embellished, but a beaut nonetheless.