If you never played the original game, your first thought upon playing Robot Unicorn Attack 2 is likely to be: “What. The. Hell?”
Adult Swim has made a name of itself for publishing mobile titles which are as amusing as they are compelling to play. The original Robot Unicorn Attack became something of a phenomenon: a Boris Vallejo painting in motion, combined with the delightfully cheesy soundtrack of Erasure’s 1994 hit, Always (a song that is cruelly locked behind a paywall in the sequel).
Robot Unicorn Attack 2 takes the premise laid down by the first game and retains the core mechanics, but adds a whole lot more besides. Now, you can upgrade your unicorn – a pair of wings will enable you to fly once you’ve reached maximum speed, while a different horn on your muzzle may increase the distance you dash forward.
And if you thought that Always was about as cheesy as the game could get, you have another thing coming – Robot Unicorn Attack 2 allows you to pay for a variety of additional tunes. Do you want to play the game while accompanied by the theme tune from The Never-ending Story? You can do that. Fancy playing along to The Touch by Stan Bush? You can do that too. While you’re not able to unlock Living on a Prayer by Bon Jovi, or Material Girl by Cyndi Lauper, the game utterly revels in its ability to be as cheesy as possible and the unlockable songs show that developer has a fantastic sense of humor.
Visually, the sequel presents a huge leap forward from the original. Animation is smoother, backgrounds are more detailed and overall the game feels far more polished than its predecessor. Many sequels to iOS games are content to throw in a couple of new levels and release the result to the App Store as a sequel, but with Robot Unicorn Attack 2, developer PikPok has effectively taken everything that made the first game so compulsive and built on it. The original game was fairly bare-bones – yet incredibly addictive; with this sequel, PikPok has added a wealth of additional options such as upgrades, customization and additional worlds to unlock.
With regards to gameplay, we’re in familiar territory. Ostensibly an endless runner, your interactions are limited to jumping or dashing forwards (which allows you to smash through stars or giant laser-spewing enemies) as your unicorn runs headlong into the randomly-generated levels. Your horse gradually accelerates the longer you survive until eventually, at top speed, you’re able to fly by holding down the jump button.
Along the way you’ll collect teardrops – the game’s currency, used to pay for upgrades – as well as fairies and other items. Each run provides you three attempts, or “wishes” as the game calls them, and your only goal is to amass the highest score possible while completing challenges along the way. Teardrops can be spent on certain temporary boosts lasting for the duration of each game. These boosts might pull items towards you from a distance, or allow you to get a head start. They tend to be expensive though, and teardrops are just rare enough to make you consider heading to the real-money store to purchase more in-game currency or an upgrade that doubles the value of what you collect.
Challenges have become a fairly standard way of increasing a game’s longevity on mobile devices and the same is true here; they’re fairly unimaginative, asking you to reach a certain score, or collect a certain number of teardrops across the course of 3 wishes. Complete them and you’ll earn a number of stars which increase your rank, unlocking more boosts and additional gameplay options.
Those options never change the game in any substantial way, but provide a little more meat on the bones. After ranking up a few times you’ll be asked to choose a side – Team Rainbow or Team Inferno. Community challenges are then unlocked, where each side competes for the highest score over a set amount of time. A total lack of interaction with other members of your faction hobbles any sense of camaraderie, but members of the winning team will earn bonus teardrops – so there’s at least some motivation to do well.
However, Robot Unicorn Attack 2 is never less than compulsive; whereas other games manage to be cheesy by accident, this game is fully aware of its own ridiculousness and that self-awareness is a large part of its charm. Players that were raised in the 80s are likely to ask themselves “was this music actually considered cool?” and while the joke does eventually wear thin, you’ll be too busy jumping and dashing to care.
If you’re after an endless runner that doesn’t take itself too seriously, you could do a lot worse than Robot Unicorn Attack 2. It’s a huge step forward from the original in almost every way that matters. It’s certainly not the deepest game that you could experience on mobile – far from it – but it remains an excellent example of the Endless Runner genre.