My Army iOS Review
The endless runner certainly wasn’t born on iOS devices (they’ve existed in internet browsers for years) but they’ve certainly found their homes there. The touch screen controls combined with the simple gameplay elements have proved a winning combination for many a developer. Doodle Jump, Hook Champ, Canabalt, Jetpack Joyride, the list goes on. My Army is a new entry to this category, and it’s got a few tricks up its metaphorical sleeve.
The game presents you with a platoon of four army soldiers whom you must lead through enemy territory, dodging mines, barbed wire, and the occasional crevasse. Along the way you’ll meet enemy soldiers, who your troops will shoot, providing that you can keep them supplied with the ammo crates strewn about the countryside. You navigate the scenery by tilting the iOS device from a vertical position to the left or right. Tilt controls can be hit and miss, but they are well implemented in My Army.
As you progress further along the endless field, rockets and guided missiles begin to bombard the field, adding an extra element of danger. Fortunately, you can blow these projectiles out of the air with a swift tap of them on the screen. There are also bombers that can reap a swath of destruction across the screen unless you can throw their aim off. Fortunately, they announce their presence on screen with a large red reticule that you can swipe to the side to deflect the attack. All of these features are introduced slowly over the course of the game, which gives it a nice rhythm. At first you only have to focus on dodging mines and grabbing supplies, but very quickly you find yourself deftly swiping away a bombing run, whilst avoiding a crevasse and preparing to take out a homing missile. The pace is good, and stops you from getting overwhelmed.
As with any endless runner game, the objective is to go as far as you can before dying. Your platoon has four soldiers, and when all of them are killed, your game is over. Fortunately, you can pick up prisoners of war to boost your numbers back up. These prisoners often are hidden behind tricky obstacles so you’ll have to make a snap judgment about which route to take. Once you have finished a level, you’ll be awarded Army points based on how far you managed to make it. These Army points are part of a clever addition to My Army – the War Progress meta-game. This involves freeing the countries of the world by accruing an amount of Army Points equivalent of that of the population of the world. You start off by freeing Vatican City, soon followed by Monaco and Guernsey. You move on to Luxembourg and Cyprus, ever aiming for the goal of the 1,339,724,852 points needed to free China. It might take some time.
My Army’s big hook, however, is right there in the title. Within the game, you can log into your Facebook account, and your soldiers portraits are instantly replaced with your friends profile pictures, along with their names. This is actually quite a fun element to the game, especially since your friends rank up individually. You form a team of four from the outset, but when you pick up any replacements prisoners along the way, it’s completely random. It’s a bit of a laugh to see your friends and acquaintances fighting a war alongside you, even if it doesn’t actually have an impact on gameplay.
There’s also a few vehicles that your army platoon can leap into in order to deflect damage away and keep yourself alive for a little longer, but they turn in such a slow arc that if anything they make it harder to avoid obstacles, negating any benefit from using them. They also turn up far too infrequently, and late into the game, which feels a little tiresome after repeated play-throughs. That’s a feeling I got after playing My Army a few times. It’s a nice game, and plays absolutely fine, but it doesn’t give you enough to keep you coming back. Yes, there are objectives, and unlockable vehicles, but there’s no marker to indicate how close you are to these goals. The game only gets exciting once you’ve pushed through into the second stage and are tackling tougher courses, but before that, you have to go through the same introductory section. After five or six playthroughs, you’re going through the motions.
My Army is a nicely designed endless runner game, with some fun social elements, but it doesn’t offer up anything particularly new for gamers to sink their teeth into. This might not normally be an issue, but in a marketplace full of similar games, you really need a hook to keep players playing, and unfortunately, My Army just doesn’t have that.