Robot Unicorn Attack 2 (iOS) review

Robot Unicorn Attack 2 is a new release from Adult Swim and its regular collaborator PikPok. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, and carries additional in-app purchases.

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The original Robot Unicorn Attack, which began life as a Web game and then saw numerous ports and quasi-sequels on both the Web and mobile, was one of the games that, alongside Canabalt, helped to popularize the “endless runner” genre. Marrying simple controls with challenging gameplay, the original Robot Unicorn Attack was an immensely addictive game that saw players challenging a series of randomly-generated levels in a constant attempt to better their score. The only controls were a jump button and a dash button, the latter of which could be used to break through certain obstacles.

Robot Unicorn Attack 2 hasn’t tampered with this existing formula all that much, but there are a few notable changes. Firstly, rather than randomly-generated levels, players tackle a different stage each day. There is no play-throttling mechanic, so players may challenge the level as many times as they please in a single day and, because it is the same each time, theoretically get better and better each time as they learn where the various obstacles are.

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Secondly, the “metagame” has been expanded upon considerably. Now, the player is tasked with a series of Jetpack Joyride-style “missions” to complete, each of which rewards the player with “stars.” Attaining a certain number of stars allows the player to level up, which subsequently unlocks new features such as the ability to purchase boosters and other upgrades. Upon reaching level 7, the player becomes eligible to compete in the online battle mode, where all players split into two teams and their combined scores are pitted against each other over the course of the day. Other online features such as a daily goal and a community goal become available at level 7, and these help the player to level up more quickly.

One big sticking point for fans of the original is the fact that the iconic song used in the first game — “Always” by Erasure — is apparently nowhere to be seen in the new title. It’s not completely absent, however — users have to level up to 4 first, and are then able to acquire it, along with several other songs, via $0.99 in-app purchase. Given the number of App Store reviewers complaining about the apparent absence of the song, which is inextricably tied to the Robot Unicorn Attack series, it’s clear that this was a somewhat questionable decision, though likely to be a profitable one — at the time of writing, the top in-app purchase as reported by iTunes is, unsurprisingly, “‘Always’ by Erasure.”

Others have responded with mixed feelings to the game’s new free-to-play model. As the player levels up, they earn the ability to purchase temporary boosters and permanent upgrades for their unicorn using collected crystals, with quicker progress being made by those either willing to pony up for more currency via in-app purchase or, at the very least, the $4.99 “doubler” upgrade. To be fair to the game, it is a lot more generous than many other free-to-play titles out there — crystals can be earned at a good rate through normal play, and are generously awarded on each level up. Additional crystals can also be earned by bragging about particular achievements on Facebook and Twitter, but in an attempt to regulate spam, the opportunities to do this are relatively limited. There’s also nothing stopping users setting their Robot Unicorn Attack 2 Facebook posts to “Only Me,” which means they can get the benefit of the crystal bonuses for sharing without having to bother their friends or promote the game.