(DSiWare)

Amoebattle (DSiWare)

Game Review

Amoebattle Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

There will be bloodstreams

Intrinsic Games has brought some interesting titles to DSiWare so far, with topsy-turvy platformer Divergent Shift and arctic rescue puzzler Penguin Patrol both offering respectable and fun takes on their material. With Amoebattle, whose title is much more fun to read than it is to say out loud, Intrinsic Games looks to infect the real-time strategy genre with its own distinctive formula. Overall it succeeds, but not without some complications along the way.

The story unfolds over the course of 12 missions, as you command an ever-growing (and dividing, and mutating) army of amoebas, exploring strange microscopic environments and tracking down new enemy types, from which you can extract DNA in order to create friendly versions of the same units. Your options expand in this way as the game progresses, and it instills a distinctive — and welcome — sense of forward motion into the proceedings.

You are guided through the game by AMI, who dominates the upper screen and both keeps you on task and walks you through the optional tutorials. One thing Amoebattle handles perfectly is the in-game training; the tutorials feel organic and barely interrupt the flow or pace of the mission. AMI remains unobtrusive, except to impart important information, which she does with appreciable brevity. This allows the game to feel fully underway even when you're still learning the ropes, and that's a rare quality indeed.

Your main goals involve exploring and battling. Exploring is easy, as Amoebattle has simple and — overall — reliable controls. Tap anywhere, and your selected unit or units will go there. Selecting units is as easy as tapping them, though you can double tap to select all units of a type, tap and hold to add or subtract a single unit from the group or draw a shape around whatever units you wish to command. It sounds complicated, but it really just provides you with a large number of options so that you can do whatever works best for you.

Battle is similarly easy to master: lead your troops to some hostile units and flick a quick line through the group you wish to attack. Your army will swarm, trade blows and, hopefully, triumph. You can also be a bit more strategic by choosing particular units who will be best suited to deal with the specific enemy or environment at hand, and it'll be important to do so after the first three or four missions are complete, as the game ramps up in difficulty considerably.

You swell your ranks by commanding your amoebas to duplicate, which they can only do if they display an icon that shows them to be well fed. There are items on the battlefield your amoebas can consume in order to become well fed, or they may become so after devouring an enemy. Either way, the old military adage is fitting here: divide and conquer. The larger your army, the more power you have at your disposal, and that's power you'll need.

You can also mutate individual units into other types, which you will unlock as you progress. Herbivores, carnivores and omnivores all have distinct strengths and weaknesses, so it's important to familiarise yourself with them quickly, and to keep a number of each on hand and safe.

So far, so good, but there are a few issues in Amoebattle that are worth bringing up. For starters, sliding the map around with the D-Pad can be annoyingly slippery, which can interfere with strategising as you're trying to keep multiple battlefronts in view at a time. Sliding past them and then back again will dominate your attention more than actually selecting and commanding units, and that's a problem, particularly in later levels where the enemies become less forgiving.

Additionally, the levels are long, often lasting well over a half an hour for even the fastest, less explorational players — those who wish to take time to explore every map and build up a formidable army at all times are looking at closer to an hour. This can cause missions to feel tedious and needlessly padded. In fact, we would have preferred 24 levels of half the length to 12 marathon missions, and that would suit the portable nature of the game a bit better as well. To alleviate the need to finish a mission in one sitting, though, the game offers a handy save feature that can be activated any time. There are three slots on offer, too.

Our main concern, however, is the soundtrack. That might sound minor, but it's truly some awful stuff. The tracks sound like they're horrendously compressed, to the point that you're hearing modulated static more than you're hearing any discernible melody. It's clearly either glitched in its playback or compressed beyond any level of acceptable quality, and that's a problem because you can't turn it off without muting the system, meaning you'll miss both the sound effects and warnings of approaching enemies, which are presented as speech rather than text.

It's an upsetting issue, because overall Amoebattle is a solid game. It's fun — if a bit repetitive — and its touch screen controls are superbly responsive. To plaster the experience with a soundtrack this genuinely unlistenable is to sorely restrict the enjoyability of a game that deserves much better.

As it stands, we can certainly recommend Amoebattle in its current state, but its irritating soundtrack will either drive you crazy or cause you to mute the game and miss out on the less offensive sound effects. Either way, you're not getting the full experience that Amoebattle should have offered, and that's a disservice that is visible to the naked eye.

Conclusion

Amoebattle is a pretty solid gaming experience that's unfortunately let down by an almost painful soundtrack, as well as a tendency to pad out levels in a way that feels artificial. If you can get beyond those things, however, you'll find a well-controlled and intuitive experience that brings out the best of the RTS genre without over-complicating it.

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User Comments (39)

rjejr

#3

rjejr said:

"we would have preferred 24 levels of half the length to 12 marathon missions"

When I read the preview from 10 months ago this was my largest concern as it said 40 minutes to an hour. This is a portable system with a tiny screen, I don't want to stare at it for that long doing 1 level. Well OK maybe the final level or 2 so I know I'm at or near the end, but not the entire game. Probably not buying it now.

Thanks for the review.

Mowzle

#4

Mowzle said:

Thanks for the lovely review, Chicken. Sounds as though you drew a half decent straw this time :)
I liked the look of this game, and it sounded fun, right from first hearing about it, so I'm waiting fingers crossed for a European release. Any indicators of a release date?
Also, does it have replay value?
Shame about the music - just have to cope with it if I want to play the game, I guess.

Philip_J_ReedStaff

#5

Philip_J_Reed said:

Also, does it have replay value?

I would say no...or at least not inherently so. You may well wish to traipse through it again at some point as it's quite fun, but the missions are pass/fail so there's no real incentive to go back and do "better."

Spoony_Tech

#7

Spoony_Tech said:

I would have to agree with the music issues. Definitely not good quality there. Haven't played much but it seems fun so far!

Kitsune_Rei

#10

Kitsune_Rei said:

@bro2dragons Anything that is cute and monster-like resembles Pokemon. You just have to deal with it. Also, that Pokemon is imitating a cell. So yeah, its likely there's a similarity since they're both microscopic creatures.

Mason

#11

Mason said:

It's a real shame about the audio; I got to hear uncompressed versions of some of the tracks last year, and the music was pretty great.

Still looking forward to playing, though. :)

Kitsune_Rei

#12

Kitsune_Rei said:

I almost impulse-bought this yesterday, but I realized I wouldn't have time to play anyway so I decided to see what a review said. I'm glad the impluse-buy wouldn't have been a bad choice. I'm getting it now.

Its a real shame about the music, do you think there's any chance of a patch? Or at least adding a graphic icon to show when enemies are approaching so you can play without sound?

BoogilyWoogily

#13

BoogilyWoogily said:

Hello Nintendolife! My name is Keith and I'm the lead designer of Amoebattle. First I'd like to thank Mr. Reed for his in-depth review of Amoebattle. We are always looking to improve our games and detailed reviews such as this are a great source of feedback.

I would like to provide some clarity on some of the points/comments made:

Regarding the soundtrack, we had two choices to choose from. A) Compress the soundtrack a lot so that we could price the game at $5 or B) Don't compress as much and price the game around $8-$10. We believed customers would be better served by the lower price point since we didn't want to double the price of the game simply for the music.

Regarding the single save slot, there are actually three save slots for you to use. We also wanted to implement autosaves and unlimited save slots but technical restrictions prevented us from doing so.

While the assertion that the missions are tedious is certainly valid, we haven't found that to be the case with most of our player base. Our testing indicated most missions take from 15-25 minutes to complete (assuming you completed it the first try). Additionally, other reviews have reported the opposite:

"The campaign is a significant length for a pocket-sized game, but it never feels too repetitive or boring. Amoebattle is never stretched out just for the sake of making it last, and even if it had been, it wouldn't be that bad." - Gamezebo

It would be of great value to us if any of our players could point out which missions they felt were tedious (and why) so we can try to address these issues in future games.

Finally, to answer Kitsune_Rei's question, there is no way for us to update/patch DSiWare games (even though we would like to). However, the minimap does have a red "ping" if you are being attacked, so you can definitely play without sound.

Keith Riley Co
Lead Designer, Amoebattle

ShawnWilson

#15

ShawnWilson said:

I won't buy this game. Real-time strategy games demand Multiplayer maps and the ability to make your own custom maps to battle human opponents or against a computer, So after you beat the campaign there is no replay value. I wouldn't even compare this to epic games like Warcraft. If games like that only had a campaign and nothing else I doubt they would have risen to the level they have. So you using excuses like price point and being a small independent developer will keep you in the very same position that caused you to skimp on areas of this game. I don't mind paying a little more for quality then paying less for crap. I wanted to buy this game but the fact there is nothing past a main campaign is a huge let down for a huge fan of RTS games like myself. I hope in the future you keep this in mind when trying to tackle what in my mind is the very best genre in gaming. Its not one to be taken lightly....

Geonjaha

#16

Geonjaha said:

Thanks to BoogilyWoogily for the feedback :)
I'll probably still be getting this game when it gets to Europe :3

Henmii

#17

Henmii said:

Since it took so long, it's a pity it only scored a 7! Ah well, I probably would not have downloaded it anyway!

Retro_on_theGo

#18

Retro_on_theGo said:

Music is very important to me n a game. That's a deal breaker. Oh well. I'm glad they at least did it to make sure the game was cheap.

WolfRamHeart

#19

WolfRamHeart said:

Nice review CB and congrats on hitting your 100th review! I picked up this game yesterday and so far I am really enjoying it. I did notice the problem with the soundtrack as soon as I started playing the game and yeah it is kind of annoying. It is a shame because I heard some of the music tracks on Amoebattle's Facebook page and they sounded really great. Apart from the music, the game is a lot of fun especially if you are a fan of real time strategy games. The controls work great and the circle pad on the 3DS makes scrolling a breeze. The graphics are nice and the character designs are cute and likable. I like that you can save the game at any given time so it makes it good for some quick gaming sessions. For only $5, this is a pretty solid experience and I would recommend it if you are into RTS games.

TheDreamingHawk

#20

TheDreamingHawk said:

@BoogilyWoogily Thank you for clarifying that. I am not really sure if I should buy this or not. Music isn't everything, but I don't want a confusing game, either. I will wait to see if there will be more Eshop ratings. Thanks for the tips!

sonryhater

#21

sonryhater said:

Thanks for the review and thanks Keith for actually responding to the review. It's so rare for a dev to interact with potential customers.

I almost impulse bought this yesterday due to Kotaku reviews of the iOS version, but the sound issues just sound like too much of an issue to make the purchase. I'm curious about the pricing issue though. Is the $8-10 range for the same sound quality as the iOS version something that Nintendo forces you into based on the game data size? Why else would using the same quality sound as the iOS version require a 100% pricing increase?

argus

#22

argus said:

I haven't played this game, but it occurs to me that there are plenty of $5 games that do not have this issue with music. That's because most developers understand the limitations they're working with and plan ahead. For example, the developer could have used some sort of tracker music (MOD, .xm, midi, etc.) instead of fully digitized tracks.

The only excuse I can imagine is if the developer was informed of these restrictions at the last minute, when it was already too late. In that case, the blame might lie with the publisher or Nintendo. Otherwise, it sounds like a case of poor planning on the developer's part.

FluxOwl

#23

FluxOwl said:

@BoogilyWoogily I would've paid more for better audio. If WayForward can charge $12 for what is now a 2 year old (but still very excellent) Shantae game...idk, I'm glad you guys were able to keep the price down, but I wish you hadn't decontented the game to do so.

Bassman_Q

#24

Bassman_Q said:

I actually was ready to pay 8 to 10 bucks on the game, what with all the hype around the game. That's why I was so surprised to see it on the shop for only $5.

That being said, while I (personally) think it would've been better to have just left the music as it was before compressions and risk a price increase, the music quality is actually not as bad as everyone is making it out to be. I recently bought Plants vs. Zombies for the DS, and the music was sorta compressed and muffled in that format, just as it is here. However, it is not unlistenable as Chicken has said in the review. After awhile, like I did with PvZ, it became less annoying and more tolerable. It's certainly not a deal-breaker imo, just a minor flaw in the game. It's nowhere near the horrible audio quality of Come On Heroes.

From what I've played of the game, Amoebattle is a really solid buy. The graphics are great, the gameplay is great, and just about everything screams out a large amount of polish. The drawback aside from the slightly tinny music is the lack of achievements, or anything other than the campaign. I would give this one at least an 8, maybe even a 9, just like I would give Intrinsic's other game, Penguin Patrol. :)

mr_chun

#25

mr_chun said:

I hate that it's become commonplace to knock a handheld game for not being "mobile". There's a difference between handheld and mobile.

IMO, mobile games are simple, sometimes shallow games that can be played for a little a time as a few minutes. Easy to pickup, play, and put away when its your turn for checkout at the grocery store or whatever.

But not ALL handheld games should be pigeonholed into the "mobile" category. Many handheld games are not designed with mobility in mind- I myself play my 3DS, DS, PSP and other handheld systems at home almost exclusively. So a long mission or cutscene doesn't bother me, cause I don't need the ability to shut it off quickly. If I'm out and about, I'll choose to play a shallow mobile game instead of, say, Metal Gear Solid 3D.

As such, I think its unfair to penalize Amoebattle for not being mobile- it's not a mobile game. It's a handheld game. It was put onto iOS devices and the DS to make use of the touch screen. Not so you could play it at the doctor's office for five minutes.

Philip_J_ReedStaff

#26

Philip_J_Reed said:

As such, I think its unfair to penalize Amoebattle for not being mobile

Did we...do that? We would have preferred shorter missions, yes, but we said nothing about that being due to its status as a 3DS game as opposed to, say, a Wii one. More frequent breaking points are always welcome, however you're playing the game. That was not a mobile-specific criticism.

It also wasn't "penalized." Reviews don't start at 10 and then knock off a point for anything we bring up as a potential issue. We bring up issues as we see them, and those issues may not necessarily affect the score. The review is here to give you a strong idea of what to expect from the game...whether or not we think those things are severe enough to affect the score. The final score takes everything into account as is, and is then used as a simple indicator of what we thought...it's not a math problem!

Kitsune_Rei

#27

Kitsune_Rei said:

Wow that's pretty awesome a designer actually came on and commented :D

I picked up the game and I'm very happy so far. The music could be a bit better, but its not horrible (Come On! Heroes is far worse). I guess the only other thing I could suggest is having the option some games have of individually adjusting the music and sound effects volumes separately, as they are both about equally as loud. Someone else mentioned Plants vs Zombies, and I remember feeling the music sounded kind of tinny there but it didn't really bother me. Heck I've noticed the image and sound quality seem lower on some of my game carts than I remember when I played them on my old DS Lite so maybe there is a difference in systems.
I think I honestly would have paid $8 to have a better soundtrack, but I know its harder to attract people at a higher price point. But so far this game seems to have a lot more than most $5 games I've played. I honestly was expecting it to be a higher cost game when I originally read about it and was still prepared to buy it.

I'm not too far in the game yet, but I like the longer missions, I get more invested in exploring the area, and since you can save anytime I can just find a place to park and come back to it later. I'd only have a problem with the long missions if I couldn't save (like with Bookworm, I love that game but it really frustrates me I can't save midgame since it can go on for a long time).

I also really love the graphics, as I expected. Great light game! Circle had taught me to be wary of anything just because I liked the graphics or how it sounded, but this one I was happy for my purchase.

mr_chun

#28

mr_chun said:

@chicken_brutus

You did list the length of the missions as a negative, saying that shorter missions would "suit the portable nature of the game a bit better". To me, that implied that the game wasn't suited for its purpose of being a mobile game.

But I contend that RTS games could never really be truly mobile, so that was never really Amoebattle's purpose. The genre generally requires a long time commitment, and any RTS fan going in would expect that of Amoebattle.

IMO, of course.

Philip_J_ReedStaff

#29

Philip_J_Reed said:

It was listed as a negative, yes, but not a mobile-specific negative. If you choose to continue to draw that conclusion — despite me telling you explicitly otherwise — be my guest. :)

Samholy

#31

Samholy said:

ill get this. even if the soundtrack is dumb, i usually play with my ipod in the bus anyway.
they should patch this. adding at least a mute option.

SyFyTy

#32

SyFyTy said:

@BoogilyWoogily Keith, thank the rest of the staff for us, it's a fun game and a great job, any complaints I've heard so far and just not valid, excepting the sound of course, a shut off for music might have been nice though. Been waiting and watching for this one since first heard about it... not disappointed at all. Additional battles or 'challenges for an additional fee as DLC would have been nice to extend it's life or replayability. but what do I know Im no designer, just want to play more of it... Tedious? Pft. not. Some people you just can't please.

SyFyTy

#33

SyFyTy said:

" , as well as a tendency to pad out levels in a way that feels artificial." huh?.?.?. I didn't get that feeling at all with this and I'm the king of spotting those padded levels and games a mile away, along with those which are artificially difficult/challenging.

Kitsune_Rei

#34

Kitsune_Rei said:

Ugh, I'm stuck on stage 1-4 (were you're supposed to defend the 3 paths with the carnivores). Is there a FAQ for this game? I've tried like 6 times with varying strategies and still am annihilated. When the last huge wave comes, all your energy is gone, and they overwhelm you no matter what. You don't have enough amoebas to keep up the battle on more than one front. What are you supposed to do?

warioswoods

#35

warioswoods said:

@BoogilyWoogily

I like developers who kindly and intelligently respond to criticisms as you have. Just for that (and the game looking pretty interesting in general), I'm adding this one to my to-buy-eventually list.

BoogilyWoogily

#36

BoogilyWoogily said:

Hello Kitsune_Rei

You are correct in that its almost impossible to battle on more than one front at that point. Perhaps there is a way to turn those three fronts into one?

Keith Riley Co
Lead Designer, Amoebattle

Woots

#37

Woots said:

Do headphones help? I know they help with almost every game in terms of improving sound quality.

MrWu

#38

MrWu said:

The soundtrack was painful indeed.

But I have to applaud the team for attempting an RTS on DSi hardware. I was a huge fan of what Bits Studios did with the Nintendo published Warlocked on the GBC.

I would really like to see that engine reused in another RTS. Given the small screen, I think a tower defense game + RTS would be really interesting where instead of roaming an entire map, you're defending fixed positions, and expanding your defensive line to outposts.

Joygame51

#39

Joygame51 said:

I have this game downloaded. I'm a play a bit put it down a bit type of person ... this can be learned with that method ..but is more fun is you stick with it for the whole mission... When I have the time to play a whole mission through I play this game . Its fun and I don't think the music is all that bad ...maybe not award quality but heck for 500 points who cares.

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