Endless, robotic running action that literally evolves as you play.
Throw away common sense, pack up logic into a well-sealed, airtight container and for God’s sake, get that sense of gaming normality out of my sight. These actions are simply a necessary precaution when picking up the laptop (or sitting down at your desktop computer) and daring to venture into the flash-animated ridiculousness of ‘Robot Unicorn Attack: Evolution’. I’ll ignore for a minute the fact that the game is based heavily around the actions of the mythical equestrian anomaly, and I’ll even put on the backburner for a second the fact that (for the purposes of the game) the unicorn is actually robotic; for the moment, I simply want to applaud the wonderful, barefaced silliness and extended middle finger to the usual restrictions of the endless runner genre that is this game.
Release Date: 08/02/2010
Robot Unicorn Attack is developed by Adult Swim Games.
Moulded very closely around its predecessors (which include Robot Unicorn Attack: Heavy Metal, Robot Unicorn Attack Christmas), this game was born from the original barrel of silliness in all colours of the visible spectrum that is Robot Unicorn Attack; this original title involved controlling an android unicorn (you’re not mistaken, this game really does exist) and guiding his/her/it s robotic soul (or lack of) over swathes of intermittent and challenging terrain at a speed that would be too swift for a regular horse, or even your standard, non-robotic, run-of-the-mill, everyday unicorn to survive.
When you first play the game, you will be forgiven for your initial suspicion that actually, nothing much has changed from the original version. This initial assumption is technically correct, but only holds true until you manage to smash into a sufficient number of trickily-placed stars that lay in your way. In previous versions of the game, smashing these stars simply awarded you points which were simply added up at the game’s conclusion and were published to an online scoreboard if you chose to do so. In a break from the norm, the use of your rainbow dash to smash through enough of these stars will result in the literal evolution of the unicorn into a completely different animal. As mentioned, in the series of Robot Unicorn titles, this is the evolutionary pinnacle thus far.
To control the action is like once again stepping forth onto the helm of the previous titles: The Z button allows you to make your jumps and the X button is used to perform a dash whereby the power of the mighty rainbow is harnessed to allow you to smash through the large star-shaped objects which block your path. You can perform a double-jump by following your initial leap with a second press of the Z button; this is often necessary because of the sheer length of some of the gaps you will be facing. You cannot jump a third time, but you can use the dash function between jumps in order to bridge the gap. Given enough space you could technically jump an infinite number of times provided you interspersed each jump with a dash, though due to the confines of the terrain and its ever-changing nature, this would prove extremely difficult.
To venture further into what exactly makes this game different from its chronologically-previous counterparts, it must be said that the game performs (literally) a leap into new territory that the previous titles simply did not. What makes the game so unique is the progress-based evolution of what starts out to be a robot unicorn and goes on to become a number of different animals running through a refreshing variety of different habitats.
Starting off as the titular Robot Unicorn, you have the ability to transform into a variety of nature’s finest creatures, beginning with nature’s cuddly toy, also known as the panda. Should you be skilled enough to smash through enough stars, your first evolution begins here and transports you to forest-like surroundings without ever interrupting your progress. The seamless transitions between animal-appropriate habitats don’t stop there; if your skills are up to the task, you can smash your way through the food chain by becoming a wolf roaming over icy terrain, a gorilla (also in the forest), a rhino and even a dragon jumping its way through, well, wherever robotic dragons tend to live these days. As you can see, ‘Robot Unicorn Attack: Evolution’ offers bountiful variety, and it is not afraid to show it off.
Not only does the often-changing nature of the gameplay offer variety that differentiates it from the previous titles, it also keeps you wondering what you will encounter next. Mixed with the literally unforeseen terrain that approaches you, the ‘what will I evolve into next’ aspect of the gameplay kept me playing repeatedly in an attempt to discover the next stage of robotic evolution, and also provoked me into an increasingly frustrated state. The longer you stay alive, the more points you can amass and the higher chance of you successfully finding out where the game will take you next. Conversely, it seems the further you get, the more conscious you are of your progress; mix this with increasingly difficult and constantly-changing terrain, and you have all the ingredients of an excellent flash-game on the rocks with a ridiculous robotic twist.
Thankfully, you hold onto your mechanical properties no matter how many times you evolve, since taking the ‘robot’ facet of the game away would be to strip it of half its silly-factor, and much like Gene Wilder’s portrayal of Willy Wonka tells us, we all love a bit of nonsensical adventurousness now and then (though this is doubly true if robots are introduced into the mix).
Like any game in existence, it is not without a few creases in an otherwise well-ironed garment of flash-animated gamery. I was a little disheartened by the initial adverts which felt a little like a friend that thinks he or she has gotten too cool to hang around with you unless it’s on their time with their choice of money-generating advertisements to impose upon you. This is not a serious criticism of course; developers need to make money and adverts allow them to continue their work in order to provide gamers across the world with future titles to tickle their fancy.
Occasionally, I found myself bathed in anger due to the rare-but-annoying jumpiness between evolutions; I mentioned above that the transition is seamless and this is usually true, but every now and then I found there to be a slight pause as the evolution took place which sometimes resulted in me forgetting my position and crashing spectacularly into the nearest solid object.
My last piece of light criticism is about the game in general which, in spite of its obvious break with the standard format of the Robot Unicorn Attack series, still feels like it hasn’t offered enough variety or gaming modes to say it has completely broken free of the shackles of conformity with its predecessor. It is essentially yet another take on the basic endless running format with a few tweaks and changes. Perhaps a change of soundtrack to something other than the dulcet tones of Erasure would have invoked some more enthusiasm from me. In spite of the above derisive points, I still wasn’t deterred enough to make me stop playing. In fact, I feel that in spite of the minor flaws, Robot Unicorn Attack: Evolution is the best title of the series to date.
Aside from the literal connotations of the title, the suffix of ‘evolution’ has literal meaning that refers to both the much-improved (and much-evolved) gameplay, and the nature of the game as a true sequel (or prequel if you are a martinet for technicalities) which differs from its predecessors in enough ways to justify it being called as such. It seems the gentlemen and women at Adult Swim Games had an unicorn-themed epiphany which brought them to the realisation that if they were to continue with the ‘Robot Unicorn’ motif, then the resulting game would need to have differ from its predecessors in more ways than simply aesthetics and its soundtrack. There would need to be a growth of new ideas from the roots of old accomplishments. Effectively, for it to be a game that is worth anyone’s time, it would have to evolve. Oh, I get the reasoning behind the title now. How delightfully inventive! 93/100