iPad Game Review: Brainsss (Universal) Review
Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Brainsss is a squad-based real-time strategy game wherein you play zombies attempting to gobble up the last remaining vestiges of humanity.
Brainsss is a surprisingly rich RTS that pits you (a horde of zombies) against those pesky, elusive, and occasionally deadly humans. Gameplay involves selecting portions of your horde and deploying them in such a way as to eat/infect them. This is easier said than done. As you can imagine, your prey will not sit still and await their fate. They will run, evade, elude, and in some cases, even fight back; forcing you to deploy your forces intelligently if you want brains for dinner. It is important to point out at this point that, in spite of the subject matter, the mood of this game is lighthearted and about as non-violent/non-gory as possible for a game with this theme. Without a good interface, a game like this will fall flat on its face. Fortunately, Brainsss features an excellent interface that allows you to select groups of zombies in moments (tap and swirl) and then split them with the tap of a button. Once selected, zombies are deployed by tapping on a destination.
Brainsss offers 50 levels with more promised, and I found them to be fantastically varied, both in terrain and objectives. In one mission you may be tasked with rounding up a group of humans scattered throughout a maze of buildings. In another, you may be trying to convert a policeman (hint: policemen are armed). If this doesn't provide enough challenge and variety, each level features the standard 3-star rating system and the game offers 74 different achievements via Game Center. You're going to be extra motivated to go after all three of those stars because they will reward you with in-game currency that can be used to purchase upgrades.
My only complaints with the game have to do with the currency and upgrade systems. Specifically, getting 3-stars will require you to complete missions quickly, which is not my particular play style. I would instead prefer to be rewarded for efficiency (no zombie losses, maximum humans converted), however I am fully aware that RTS games always have an element of speed built into them so I can mostly chalk this up to differences in taste. The other issue has to do with the upgrades themselves, which do not carry over from one group of missions to another. Unfortunately, this means that you are forced to either skip upgrades in the early levels so you can purchase them in the later ones, or, ahem, buy in-game currency via IAP. More on this later.
The graphics of Brainsss are fantastic. The game supports the retina displays of both the iPhone 4/4S and the new iPad, and it looks great even on non-retina devices. The colors are vibrant and the objects are crisp and pleasantly animated. As I mentioned in the gameplay section, the theme here is lighthearted and almost whimsical. There is no gore and the fights are so cartoonish as to be almost funny.
Both the sound and music of Brainsss are nicely done. I particularly enjoyed the music as it matches the graphical style perfectly, and is very well done.
In-App Purchases (IAPs)
Brainsss offers gamers the chance to purchase its in-game currency with real money. Although I'm not a fan of this type of model, this is mostly because it's not always implemented well, and can unbalance the game so much that these purchases feel mandatory. Brainsss does not fall into that category. The currency is freely available throughout the game, and I never felt that I hit a paywall where I didn't have enough coin to purchase what I thought was a mandatory upgrade. Still, the fact that upgrades do not persist from one group of levels to the next feels a bit like a money-grab as you will never be able to upgrade fully, even if you earn 3 stars on every level.
Brainsss is an enjoyable, polished, zombie themed squad-based RTS. The missions are varied, the interface is great, and the graphics/sound really make this game shine.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 5 - Colorful, crisp graphics with full retina assets for all supported devices.
Sound: - 5 - This game sounds as good as it looks
Controls: - 5 - Once learned, the interface requires no thought. Perfectly implemented.
Gameplay: - 4.5 - An almost perfect game, marred only by the fact that upgrades must be repurchased for every level group.
Playing Hints and Tips:
The first time you play a level, take the time to learn it. This will ultimately reduce the number of times you will need to replay it to earn the coveted 3-stars. Don't purchase any upgrades until you feel you need them. Upgrades do not persist between level groups so any money spent on making the easy levels easier can never be recovered.
Developer: Lonely Few LLC
Release Date: May 2, 2012
Buy App: Brainsss
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