iSink U in Review – Bombs, Board Games, And Battleships Oh My!

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Board games are popping up more and more on the iPlatform lately because turn-based game play works well on the iPhone, allowing you to easily engage in battles with friends at the drop of a hat. Today I got my hands on a “naval strategy” game that although looks like an old favorite is definitely a new take on a classic game.

At its core, iSink U is very much like the classic board game Battleship. However, where it differs is where Artificial Life evidences their expertise: bringing the old classic, Battleship, into a new era and to new players.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the classic, the premise is simple. You and your opponent have 5 pieces (4 ships and 1 submarine) which you arrange on a board. Then you take turns “firing” at your opponent, hoping for a chunk of steel in the ultimate aim of destroying all their ships. Although this is the basic framework that Artificial Life used in producing iSink U, how they get you from beginning to end is where they took the game to a whole other level.

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Firstly, there are 2 game modes: you vs computer, and a “head to head” mode where you can play locally with a friend. In either mode the setup and play is the same, the only difference is that in the head to head mode, you your enemy and you pass the iDevice back and forth like a friendly torpedo. In my last review, I mentioned this same style of versus play which works very well. The best part is waiting while your enemy takes their turn, adding a great level of anticipation and excitement that just makes the game even more enjoyable.

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When you start a match, you are treated too the first example of how the Dev’s have gone that extra mile with this game. Rather than a simple static board or scene to play on, you are treated to a choice of 9 available environments to play in. Not only that, if you read the app store description of the game, there’s also a promise that after you play through all the levels, there is a hidden map that you can play. The maps are split up into 3 groups Frozen Front, Tropical and War Zone and full of everything from icebergs to volcanoes, and ruined cities.

Looking at the maps, you’ll notice that yes, there is still a board and that little else besides scenery changes in levels. The thing is that since a game still has to be played, you can’t really have too much extra stuff going on or else you risk taking away from the simple enjoyment of the game. I think Artificial Life did just enough without going overboard (see what i did there? boat joke!).

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Once you’ve selected your map, it’s time to fire up a nice duel. As iSink U loads, a screen shows you what all the things on your screen are for as well as the motions for controlling the camera. After you tap your way through, you arrive at the game board. The first thing you’ll want to do is secretly move your ships around. Keeping with the K.I.S.S. rule, movement is as easy as tapping the ship you want and moving it using one of the following: a left-pointing arrow, a crosshair, or a 4-way arrow. The single arrow is your back button. To move anything you select the 4 way arrow. When you do you’ll see the ship you selected raise out of the water and hover in the air. You’ll also notice that there are options to spin the ship left or right now available in the bar at the bottom of the screen and a new button to drop the ship back down now off to the right. While the boat is hovering, below it you see the space that it occupies so that when you are moving it around, you will know if there is room or not. From there just drag it around on the screen to where you want to place it.

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Once you’re done all that, just tap the little >| symbol in the right corner and the game begins. This is another area that the Dev team put some extra work in to keep it interesting. You select the ship that you want to use and tap that cross hair symbol you saw from before. You are then brought to the board across from you and given new options in that little bar at the bottom of the screen, a single shot and a multi-shot. Also where that icon to drop the ship was before, now has your button to fire your shot.

Unlike the original board game, you don’t just shoot once. iSink U uses “Action Points” to effectively decide how many shots you are going to take. You are given 5 points each round and can make use of them however you choose. Single shots take 1 point and the multi-shots take a varying number. Larger ships have bigger multi-shots and would therefore use more points than the smaller ships. To me, this is definitely a more enjoyable way to play. Strategy definitely comes into play here, if you want to go 1 by 1 you can, and you get 5 shots instead of the usual 1. Or you can go for blanket attacks using the multi-shots to cover a larger area, but they take up more points so your turn will be up faster.

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Nnother neat feature in the game becomes apparent after your opponent takes their turn. When it comes time for your turn again you have the option to move around any ships that have not yet been hit. Any players of the original board game know that having the ability to move your pieces during the game can drastically change the outcome and increase your chances of walking away with a victory when done correctly. I think out of everything, this is my favorite feature of the game. By being able to move your pieces around after every turn you and your opponent are forced to play with a more dynamic strategy, having to adjust and tweak it as each turn goes by.

Overall, the graphics themselves are pretty nice looking. During game play there are some cinematics that bring you really close to the ships and some of them don’t look quite as good as others but overall the environment and all it’s pieces are very detailed and relatively smooth. Watching the ships fire off and the bombs landing in the squares is quite amusing. When you do sink a ship or have one of yours sunk, there’s also a little animation of the debacle and afterwards, it remains visible just below the water for the remainder of the game.

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When all your bombing and battling is done, you get your score and find out your place on the ranking board. You also find out if you managed to earn one of the 3 available medalse. All of this is viewable under the Ranking option from the main menu. If you go to the More page you have a tutorial available as well as a break down on each of the ships used in the game. This shows all the stats about the ships, the name of its multi-shot weapon and an image showing the pattern in which it fires.

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I honestly had a blast (no pun intended that time) playing this game. It’s similar enough to the original Battleship to evoke nostalgia, yet updated and enhanced enough to warrant playing on your iDevice. Other than maybe an enhancement to the graphics and possibly adding some more achievements or levels – all of which can be done through updates – I think this is a solid release that should grow on App Store people.

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App Summary
Title:iSink U (Version 1.0.0)Developer:Artificial Life Inc.
Price:$0.99App Size:34.2MB
  • A classic game style
  • Simple controls
  • Lots of replay value
  • Graphics could be smoother
  • No Online Play or Ranking

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