Old School Single-Player Real Time Strategy Goodness
Space Harvest II is the sequel (obviously) to the original Space Harvest that tore up the App Store a bazillion, I mean 5 years ago. It recaptures the magic of the first quite nicely, but also includes super-crisp retina graphics and numerous gameplay enhancements. Waaaaay back in the early nineties, Westwood Studios released a little gem called Dune 2. It was based on the famous book of the same name, but rather than try to retell the story, it instead put you in direct control of a faction's military, and tasked you with controlling Arrakis, the only source in the universe of a spice that everyone desperately needed. It wasn't the first real-time strategy game, but it was the first to introduce the format that we've all come to know and love. Specifically, collect natural resources, collect resources to build units/buildings, expand, fight, conquer, harvest, expand, etc.; all in real-time. I was lucky enough to stumble across it back in the day, and found it fun to the point of being addictive. Space Harvest II is a wonderful love letter to Dune 2, but doesn't cross the line into shamelessly copying a classic due to it's own unique units, strategies, resources, graphics, story, and interface.
There is a story, of course, but it's unnecessary if you aren't into that sort of thing as the meat of the game involves exploring the map, collecting mushrooms (yes, mushrooms), building your army, etc. The scenarios provide a nice variety of mission objectives, all introduced slowly as you progress. This gives you a chance to build your skills as you advance, and build your skills, you must. As with all real-time strategy games, Space Harvest II can be quite difficult, even on EASY. The key to losing against an aggressive computer opponent in games like this is almost always the same: caution. Slow expansion of a single fortified base will almost certainly result in failure as you are yielding the rest of the map (and all its resources) to your enemy. Instead, aggressively scout for mushrooms, and when you find them, exploit them. This strategy greatly increases the likelihood that when you first encounter the enemy, it won't be when he stumbles across your base. Just drop a few strategically placed turrets before you leave to fend off enemy scouts, and concentrate on defending your mushroom harvesters.
With all that's going on in a real-time strategy game, the interface can make or break it. Fortunately, a lot of thought went into designing Space Harvest II for the touch screen. Tap to select a single unit, double-tap to select all visible units of the same type, or draw a box around groups of units to select them. A super handy feature in this last selection method is that once you draw your box, you can select a subset of these units by tapping on them when they appear at the top of the screen. Lastly, if you are ever confused about how things work, a handy quick-reference page is available from the main menu, as is a tech guide, which will give you a better understanding of the game elements. Both of these are completely offline, so they won't take you out of your game, or require an Internet connection.
Graphically, Space Harvest II really surprised me. Based on the screenshots and the graphics of the first game, I wasn't expecting much. However, I found the serenely psychedelic color palette to be quite beautiful, and the individual units to be so crisply drawn and animated that I couldn't help but just stare at them for a while. As a result, everything is extremely easy to identify, and the game never looks busy or cluttered. Be advised, however, that the graphics are whimsical and vaguely cartoonish so if you're looking for something gritty and realistic, you may be a bit disappointed. I found the audio to be good, but not good enough to make me reach for my headphones. This, however, is primarily due to the type of game it is rather than its production values or polish. Finally, achievement hounds will be happy to know that Space Harvest 2 supports Game Center Achievements.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 5 - The screenshots do NOT do this game justice. Super crisp, and smoothly animated. Sound: - 4 - Very good sound and music Controls: - 5 - A solid interface, that somebody put a lot of time into designing. Gameplay: - 5 - Real Time Strategy Gamers Rejoice! Mobile gamers however, looking for a quick distraction or an easy victory, may need to return to their overflowing folder of Match 3 titles.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Cautious play will result in defeat! Expand quickly to claim resources. Defend your early bases with turrets, and never leave your harvesters unprotected (they are defenseless).