Posted by Jackie Judge on 6/30/09
In the summer of 1998 my family moved to Petaluma from Sacramento, right at the brink of my entrance into high school. New in town, my brothers and I didn’t know anyone, and so we often biked around aimlessly in the winding neighborhoods of Victorian homes and hilly, pot-hole ridden streets, but we more often than not chose to stay inside where it was cool and familiar, that sullen beige Pottery Barn interior with its gray stucco exterior of our new, hermitic home. We would hoist our computers within reasonable distance of one another, set up a LAN and play Starcraft, a newly released game we spent hours playing. Maybe it wasn’t family bonding, but it was how we spent the entire summer. We spent it playing Starcraft.
Years later and many games later, UniWar by Javaground is released for the iPhone and I am suddenly so reminded of those early days of Starcraft. Curiously, even the 3 playable races within the game easily mirror those of Starcraft: the Sapiens for the Terrans, the Titans for the Protoss, and the Khralean for the Zerg. Uniwar by Xpressed is a turn-based strategy game in the vein of Advance Wars and Starcraft that contains 21 stages in the single-player mode and offers full online play, a move that actually extends it beyond the usual capacities of an iPhone game. It turns out the iPhone proves to be a perfect platform for this particular genre of strategy game with its easy interface and clear graphic renditions. UniWar is a good-looking game, and the units are small but with just enough detail and color to not detract from the quality. The text is also easy to read, which is critical for a game that includes so many instructions and background details.
UniWar has three playable races – Sapien, Titan, Khralean – each with their individual units and specialties. Sapiens are the humanoid characters, so they’re equipped with the usual warfare items of tanks and choppers, their units all painted a bloody red. The Titans are a more futuristic race (think Protoss from Starcraft) and showcase more rounded vehicles with electrical impulses, and a cool blue color that seems to be the uniform of choice for all advanced space Species. The last race, the Khraleans, is not unlike the Zerg of Starcraft with its putrid, organic festoon of flying lizards, crawly things and centipede-like things (cue spine tingling here).
As is typical of the genre, each unit type – such as ground light or aquatic – has its strengths and weaknesses, which you may read about prior to building a unit, or simply discover as you move them around the hexagonal maps and challenge rival units. Too bad it seems the races are fairly homogenous in terms of each having light units, medium units, and heavy units, but I guess there’s only so much randomization a game can do without it becoming unbalanced. The three different races exhibit different play styles with units that have unique talents such as teleportation, burying, and moving after attacking. With these differing abilities, the strategy tactics for each race differ, as well as your tactics when it comes to countering the enemy race you happen to be playing against. A series of quick help tutorials at the introduction of each new feature show you how to use the abilities of the different races in a fun and engaging way. Tactics play a surprisingly large role in your success through UniWar, more so than many other mobile games, and it’s this requirement that really makes UniWar an interesting and addictive proposition to play.
To defeat your foes you must capture bases and control territory, winnowing your opponent down to complete annihilation. Since there is no resource gathering and economy building in Uniwar, each turn you are awarded credits to go toward building war units; the amount of credits your receive depends on the map and how many bases are in your possession. When attacking your opponent via your turn, a cute and effective firing animation is displayed, sometimes leading to a deft little explosion when a unit is lost. Yes, I daresay cute.
After an easy tutorial that explains the basics of the game — helpful for newcomers — you either start a campaign, play a solo mission, or boot up online and play multiplayer by passing the iPhone back and forth. Although the campaign mode is fun and offers a lot of challenge, the most impressive feature, by far, is the online play. For those with addictions to headsets and microphones, text chat is an option during play for more immediate smack talk. You do not have to hover over UniWar to play online, although you can certainly make an afternoon out of it. You can actually have several online games going at once – up to 20! – and get notifications for your moves via email. With the iPhone 3.0 upgrade just being launched, Xpressed can now use push notification. How very, very awesome.
Everything in the game is handled via touch, making the interface very clean and easy to use. Just tap on a base to bring up a unit construction menu, tap a unit to bring up the move/attack menu, or use the keys along the bottom of the screen to access options and end your turn. UniWar also works in both landscape and vertical orientation, so the choice of view isn’t limited for the player. At the end of each turn, watch the 5 seconds count down, each sounding with an ominously loud TICK, to remind you of you slow, imminent doom – or at least, for me it was always imminent doom.
I’ll admit while it’s a classic, sometimes the turn-based gameplay can be extraordinarily frustrating; should I make a bad move, I am left to howl a primal moan from my body as I watch, completely helpless, the explosions of my units upon my opponent’s turn. However, if you draw even the smallest amount of pleasure from turn-based games there is no reason not to download UniWar – especially since the game is a steal at $0.99. If, like me, you have nostalgia for Starcraft, or enjoy Advance Wars on the gameboy, then Uniwars will occupy your time with sheer satisfaction.
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Tagged as: advanced wars, starcraft, strategy game, turn-based stategy game, uniwar, xpressed