Published by: Grab LLC
Genre: Real Time Strategy
Play it if: You want a great handheld RTS.
Skip it if: You like playing online.
Amoebas are very simple unicellular organisms that live in water and reproduce asexually via mitosis. Knowing these scientific facts is not necessary to enjoy Amoebattle, but it will make you appreciate the little details that make Grab Games’ real time strategy title such a joy to play. While the cutesy graphics might deter some players, trust me when I say this game is no walk in the primordial park.
In fact, despite being a DSiWare game, Amoebattle has enough depth and charm to make it rival several other RTS titles out there. As you progress through its twelve missions, the game gets more difficult as each one gives you more things to master. The first few levels hold your hand as they teach you how to control your amoebas, but the later missions mercilessly test your newly acquired skills.
Your guide in game is a humorous little robot named AMI that walks you through the basics and mission objectives. The colorful graphics and soothing music do a good job of welcoming you into the world of the amoebas, though the music sounds a bit distorted and too loud at times. You’ll be doing quite a lot of exploring in each level too, so I really liked how each song made me feel like I was on a mysterious scientific discovery – a fun one.
Controlling your amoebas is just a matter of tapping your screen. The game offers different ways to select your units either by double tapping them or by lassoing them with your stylus. You can also hold down the shoulder buttons to bring up a sub-menu that gives you more grouping options, such as the ability to save a selection to make switching between groups quicker.
In your searching and probing, you’ll discover that their little world is being threatened by a menacing infection turning these adorable-looking creatures hostile. Battle controls are also simple to pick up and require you to tap enemy units or swipe your stylus over them to attack.
As you progress through the game, you’ll expand your amoeba selection and gain new units that differ in abilities and weaknesses. Categorized as omnivore, herbivore, or carnivore, each amoeba has its own way of attacking and recovering health. All amoebas have a health meter that recovers over time and a food meter that, when full, lets one split into two. You can have up to 25 amoebas at your disposal, and it’s always a good idea to max this number out if you have the available resources to do so.
Once your amoebas engage in battle, things can get a bit hectic, especially when you have groups of enemies coming in from different parts of the map. The top screen’s mini map tells you where an attack is happening, so you can also swap screens to tap the mini map and fast travel to your destination. You can just move the D-pad and find it yourself on the main map too. Some of the more difficult missions require you to split your squad and travel back and forth between several different combat sites, so looking at the map helped me out a lot.
During these missions, I often found myself getting overwhelmed by enemies, and had to reevaluate my current team and divide them accordingly. Aside from having them reproduce, you can also mutate your amoebas into other varieties. Mutation costs power points, which also refill over time, but sometimes you’ll have to decide whether mutating or replicating is your best option. Power points further add to your strategic arsenal and let you deploy probes to distract your enemies or special attacks that can freeze or poison them.
Twelve missions may not seem like a lot, but after realizing each one can take as long as 40 minutes to finish, I started wishing they were shorter. Some missions also have you fending off an endless supply of enemies while defending a specific target and attacking their base. These, my friends, are the ones that will test your resolve and skills on the battlefield. Save often too, because if you die, you’ll have to start each one from scratch.
After hours of frustration, I realized I only had myself to blame for my series of defeats. Amoebattle offers a great RTS experience in a small package, but excels at all the things that make the genre so good. I only wish the game offered a skirmish mode or even online multiplayer to really take it to the next level. Despite its flaws, Amoebattle is a great game that might also make you reconsider a eukaryote’s entertainment potential.