iPhone Life magazine

Gaming Review: SlamBots Is Old School Fun

The folks at Retro Dreamer taught me that sneezing can be fun. They showed me that mechanical raptor-spiders are cool, and elves really do work much harder at Christmas than we give them credit for. I’m not sure if there's a lesson to be learned with SlamBots ($1.99), but the latest Retro Dreamer games is simple, entertaining, looks great (in an old fashioned sort of way), and manages to get hectic before you’ve even realized it has done so.

Troll In A CloudIn this game, you’re in the business of stamping out all these weird little creatures that look like part of the evolutionary chain from Despicable Me. You start out as a cyborg ninja with a basic slammer, and as you earn some cash you can buy new characters and better slammers. New characters don't appear to influence game play, but I believe the slammers do.

You also can unlock two additional arenas for a total of three to play on, and you can upgrade the effectiveness of your power ups. Just be warned, unless you come to be really skilled at the game, it will take you quite some time to rack up enough dough to get all the cool stuff. Thankfully, I’m a glutton for grinding, but those who aren’t so patient might need to drop some IAP to boost their coin repository.

How To Play

The slammers jump automatically, and to move left and right you tilt in the appropriate direction. To actually slam, you hold your finger on the screen (although other than getting a bigger bonus for actually hitting creatures, I’m not sure what the benefit of slamming is).  You do have a slam meter as well, and when that runs out, you’ll be back to normal jumping again. The trick to this game is getting combos, which requires you to jump on multiple bad guys with no stops in between. This can be rather difficult given the confined space and the platforms littering the bottom portion of the screen. Also, normal villains take two hits to kill, but if you clip their wings and let them be for a while, they turn to red, sprout new wings, and come at you more aggressively. You do get coins for jumping on and slamming monsters, but there’s also a nice stream of coins in the upper regions of each level that can more rapidly fill your coffer with if you can stay up there.

Power ups include a row of coins that fall down to the lower level for your consumption, a “battery” that prevents your slam meter from emptying for a short period of time, and a snowflake that temporarily freezes everything on the screen.  There are a couple other power ups as well, but I’m not 100 percent certain what they do.

If this game lacks one thing, it’s an explanation for everything. From a bad guy perspective, it seems like a bit more variety would be nice, though it’s possible the lack thereof just comes from the fact that I’m not very good at the game yet.  Game Center provides a leaderboard for each of the levels as well as 28 achievements to earn.

Velocispiders EverywhereThe Look

The graphics have that great retro pixilated console look Retro Dreamer captures so well. The character designs and animation are cool, and there’s always something going on in the background, even if it’s something simple like drifting clouds. I like the fact that whenever you’re close to danger, little bubbles pop up to alert you where said danger lies. Overall, the sound effects are decent, and there’s a nice diabolical laugh when you die. However, I'd like it if the creatures made some kind of noise once in a while.  he music very much reminds me of old school console games, but sadly the game has only tune for all three levels.

I’m not going to tell you that SlamBots is the best Retro Dreamer has to offer, but it is certainly of similar caliber to the developer's previous efforts. As its name alludes to, Retro Dreamer is good at putting an old school spin on games that are enjoyable to modern audiences. A little more variety in enemies would be nice, and a one-page help panel explaining at least the power ups would be a friendly gesture. Otherwise, this is a nice little game to play for a few minutes here and there, or occasionally for a longer stretch when the addiction hits you.

Overall Score: 7/10

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Eric Pankoke has been a gamer for more than 20 years. He began with arcade games, moving to consoles and eventually handhelds and Pocket PCs. Now he spends most of his time on one of his iOS devices. Eric has written more than 700 gaming reviews, which have appeared on a number of gaming websites as well as several issues of both Smartphone & Pocket PC and iPhone Life magazines. He regularly contributes to iphonelife.com and TouchMyApps. Ultimately he hopes to eventually develop games himself for whatever the hot mobile device is when he finally gets moving.