There must be something in the water at the Halfbrick office, because they just keep churning out games with no sign of slowing down. From Jetpack Joyride to Fruit Ninja, the developer from down under has seen huge success releasing games for mobile platforms with a series of titles that marry addictive gameplay with simple touch controls.
Their latest game, Colossatron: Massive World Threat, asks the question: What if you were the monster in a Japanese disaster movie? Godzilla, your time is up – a giant mechanical dragon-snake is here to show you how demolishing a city is really done.
Taking the role of the titular space monster, players are tasked with one simple goal: Destroy absolutely everything in sight. From a top-down view, you accomplish this by sliding new sections into Colossatron’s body as they drift onto screen. These new sections are colored either blue, red or yellow. Slide them into the desired spot on your snake and they’ll snap into place with a satisfying sound effect, adding their firepower to your destructive capabilities.
Some light tactics come into play through the upgrade system; place two primary colored sections next to each other and they’ll merge, creating a new tertiary-colored section: blue and yellow will create a green segment, while blue and red will create a purple one, etc. In addition, when 3 sections of the same color are placed next to each other they will instantly merge and create an upgraded form with higher armor and increased firepower. You can perform these upgrades twice so play becomes a fast-paced tactical game of deciding where to place each section and what to prioritize: Do you place that new red section with the other two already on your body to create an upgrade, or do you put it next to that lone blue section to create a purple laser-spewing death machine?
You also need to bear in mind the length of your monster. Understandably, the residents of the cities you’ll be destroying haven’t taken too kindly to your single-handed attempts to revive the demolition industry and they’ll be sending out the entirety of their military forces in an attempt to bring you to heel. Led by General Moustache – because as everyone knows, all military bigwigs like to rock the facial hair – resistance begins almost instantly upon crashing down to the surface of each level. The screen soon fills with tanks, demolition trucks and bomber planes which zero in on your location; as you’re unable to directly control Colossatron or where its fire is directed – until you choose between a pair of late-game upgrades, at least – you need to make sure that where you place new segments and what you prioritize for upgrades fit your current needs under a feeling of constant pressure.
As you come under increasingly heavy fire, segments will take damage before eventually breaking away. Upgrading a section into a more advanced form will repair any damage done though, so often the wise choice is to slide a new segment into place to buy yourself a little more time, even if it messes up the plan that you’ve been carefully working towards.
As you proceed through each area, you’ll destroy certain buildings which give out various power-ups or Prisms, a form of in-game currency needed to upgrade your destructive capabilities. These power-ups again need to be slotted into place and will either increase the rate of fire to adjacent segments, provide an area of your snake with a protective shield or give you a handy nuclear warhead that can be detonated to get out of a tight spot.
There are 7 areas to be conquered, each broken up into 4 stages with simple objectives, usually requiring you to destroy a specific enemy at the end of a stage. The last stage of a region will always ask you to cause a certain amount of property damage in order to move forward, and levels can be replayed as a Survival challenge – a necessity if you want to gather enough Prisms to afford the rather expensive upgrades on offer. Predictably, micro-transactions are on hand to allow you to afford these upgrades faster, and while they aren’t essential, the stinginess of the game in giving out the currency you need does feel as though the game is subtly driving you towards spending real money. It’s not a deal-breaker, but at times it can leave a slightly sour taste in the mouth.
After completing the last region of the game you can choose to increase the difficulty and start over again. Doing so raises the difficulty bar and removes all the gadgets you’ve unlocked so far but your purchased upgrades are maintained, thankfully. It feels like an artificial way of extending the length of the game, to be honest, as no new elements or mechanics are brought to the table on your second or third playthrough. A few more levels would have been preferable, as you’ll see everything the game has to offer in a single day.
Colossatron is easily Halfbrick’s most attractive title to date. While the visuals are simple, the sheer amount of on-screen action and some wonderful effects are never less than pleasing and the action is presented as though it’s a live feed from a tv news station, with reporters commenting and headlines flashing up on screen. Though pleasing to the eye, this last stylistic flourish frequently obscures the action; more than once we lost a level as we weren’t able to see what we were doing. In addition, the sheer volume of opponents can make it difficult to see what’s going on. The level of challenge could have been maintained by dialing down the number of enemies on screen while increasing their strength to compensate. Sometimes less is more.
The sound is great though – an enthusiastically cheesy voice cast lend some amusing dialogue, though it can become repetitive – and the effects all sound great. The music drives along the action and something is definitely lost with the volume muted. Though the game’s statement that you should play with headphones feels a little unnecessary, aurally the game never fails to deliver.
When all is said and done, despite being highly enjoyable while it lasts, the game’s flaws take a little of the shine off. The slow pace of upgrades can feel like you’re just grinding for the sake of it and the lack of content leads to repetition. A few more varied objectives would certainly have been nice, and if Halfbrick ever decide to produce a sequel, it’s these areas that they should concentrate on.
In a fight between Godzilla and Colossatron, Godzilla would still triumph – but he would definitely limp away from the fight with more than a few battle scars.