Strategy titles have found a new home, it seems, on the touch screen of the iDevice. More and more real time, turn based, and 4X strategy titles, along with board games are finding their way into the AppStore, taking full advantage of the multitouch screen. FDG has brought Tentacle Wars, the Flash game available from Lumarama, to the iPad, and it feels like the game was specifically made to be played on the touch screen platform.
Tentacle Wars looks a lot like a Galcon clone on the surface, but once you get into it, the depth starts to show. You’ll need to take control of cells inside an infected alien organism by branching out, and using tentacles to connect from cell to cell. Each cell that you have control of is only allowed a certain number of tentacles, so deciding which cells to attach to is very important.
To connect to another cell, you need to make sure you have enough energy in your starting cell. Each link in your tentacle requires energy, so if you don’t have enough, you won’t be able to make a tentacle long enough to connect. Once you do connect, depending on your situation, you can either sit there and feed energy into the cell, or cut your tentacle and send all of the links, and their energy into the cell, which is much quicker.
Connecting to an enemy cell will start feeding energy into it right away. If you have enough links and the enemy cell is low enough on energy, you can cut the tentacle, and send all of the links into the cell, taking it over. If the enemy cell has enough energy to make a tentacle, it will almost always battle it out by sending a tentacle back towards you. This sends half of your tentacle back to your cell, and you’ll send energy through the tentacle until either cell runs out of energy. The cell left wins, and gets both cells. To complete each mission, you will need to form a strategy and pull it off fairly quickly, or else you’ll be overrun by the invading cell in no time. You should be able to complete each mission with plenty of time left. If you’re cutting it close, chances are you should rethink your strategy. As you progress through the game, you’ll come across different enemies which are more intelligent, but the rise in difficulty is handled very well. There are no crazy difficulty spikes.
Throughout the 40 campaign missions, there are some stages with empty cells that you’ll be fighting to take over, barriers blocking your way so that you can’t connect directly with another cell, and multiple infections fighting for control of the area. Each mission has a 3 star rating system based on how much energy you have at the end of the stage, and how quickly you complete the mission. The number of swipes you make is listed as well, but has no effect on how many stars you receive.
There are two organisms to try and save, each having 20 missions. The mission selection screen shows a path of cells, with some branching off to other areas. This opens up two or three different missions, so if you’re having trouble with one mission, you almost always have the option to play others, and come back to missions you’re having a hard time with later on.
There’s also a Multiplayer Mode, which matches you up through GameCenter, and has you battle over an arena. It’s just like completing a mission level, with the objective being to take over all of the enemy’s cells. I was really surprised at how many people were playing online. It only took between 5 and 10 seconds to be matched up every time I went looking for a match.
The controls in Tentacle Wars are flawless. To connect two cells, you just draw a path from one to the other. Tentacles are cut by swiping a line through them, and will be cut right where you swipe. Since those are the only controls you have, keeping an eye on all of the cells, and quickly deciding what to do next is never hindered by imprecise or unresponsive controls.
To further draw you in, the graphics, animations, and environments are fantastic. Graphics wise, it does look a lot like Galcon, but under the cells, there’s a black and white background with various moving cells and other objects, which definitely gives the feeling of being deep inside an organism. Completing the atmosphere is the music. Taken from www.strategicmusic.com, it’s some of the best background music I’ve heard in an iOS game, and fits perfectly with the game’s graphics and feeling.
Tentacle Wars is only available for the iPad, but FDG is working on making an iPhone version as well. Priced at $2.99, having a great challenging campaign mode, with more organisms to save coming in future updates, and a multiplayer mode that gives the game endless replay value, it’s a great buy for fans of strategy games. There’s also GameCenter support with two leader boards, one for your total campaign score, and another for the total number of multiplayer wins, and 11 achievements most of which having to do with multiplayer battles. This also offers up quite a bit of replay value even if you’re not too keen on playing online. FDG has done a wonderful job porting this flash game to the iOS. I’m pretty excited to get into the future levels, and sink more time into the multiplayer battles. Tentacle Wars is definitely a game that will be staying on my iPad for a long, long time.