For an interesting discussion, one only needs to turn to conversations between Apple and Android fans. The Apple vs. Samsung case is certainly a culmination in the long-running drama, especially after a US court recently ruled that Samsung copied the iPhone. No matter how you feel about the topic however, you have to admit that using this rivalry as the core idea behind a mobile game is a good idea. That’s where Fruit Vs Robot, a multiplayer title that pits the Fruits (Apple users) against the Robots (Android fans), jumps in. (For the record: sorry Apple fans, as of right now, Android owners are kicking your bottom.)
Developed by Melbourne studio Gravity Four, Fruit Vs Robot is a multiplayer affair that sees players challenge one another to various minigames. To add a bit of variety, there are three different categories of minigames: trivia, arcade and board games. The trivia games range from general and not-so-general knowledge questions, pop culture and other themed variations, such as Science. The arcade games include a couple of balloon-bursting games and a more strategic, air hockey-ish title called Knockers. Yes yes, giggle giggle. The board games are probably the most recognisable of the lot, with famous titles such as Four in a Row and Checkers making up the list. Undoubtedly, it’s a mix of very simple games, but they work well in the multiplayer context. Furthermore, unlike other multiplayer games currently on the app market, such as Draw Something and SongPop, Fruit Vs Robot’s minigames all happen in real time, which makes it great for quick, on-the-go action. It’s also clever in the sense that the number of games can easily be increased in the future; movie trivia, anyone? Chess? Well, maybe not chess. In fact, budding developers are encouraged to submit such games, with Tic Tac Toe being the first of what will likely be many.
To keep people playing, Fruit vs Robot only unlocks the majority of its games once you spend silver. Silver can be accumulated in a few ways, but the easiest way is to simply play the games. Unlocks don’t come cheap though, costing anywhere from 2,000 to 30,000 silver. Considering you only earn 100 silver if you win, 75 for a draw and 50 if you lose, that means a lot of games of Balloon Pop or Four in a Row which as you can imagine gets tedious pretty quickly. There’s only so much fun you can have playing those games. It’s cynical to say it’s a money grab, but it does make a lot of sense; gold, which is bought for cash, can be converted into silver or activates ‘premium mode’ for a number of days, which boosts the amount you earn. For people who absolutely refuse to spend any money, the game gives you another option as well, which is to download and play games other games on the Tapjoy publishing platform. Gold and silver also let you customise your avatar (again, either a Fruit or a Robot depending) with loads of options, including neat shoes, hats and other accessories.
Fruit vs Robot has a couple of other issues which stem from the minigames themselves. Although Gravity Four is a Melbourne company, many of the trivia questions seem to have a British slant to them. At the same time, I’m not sure how relevant a lot of the music trivia questions are for a younger audience as they seem to focus mostly on artists and songs prior to the 90’s. I also ran into a bug a couple of times in the Name Artist trivia, where the questions would end with the artist’s name (yep, I won). In stark contrast, the Pop Trivia version of the game has plenty of modern references such as the Big Bang Theory and Harry Potter. On the technical side of things, I had trouble playing each of the arcade games. Firstly, the balloon titles are quite memory-intensive due to the pace and as a result, did not run well on my HTC Incredible S. Secondly, Knockers has some pretty horrid control problems, wherein it’s extremely difficult to slide the puck in a general direction, let alone with a degree of strategy and cunning required to succeed at the game.
As for Fruit vs Robot’s networking, it’s adequate, with matches being found quite quickly. If there’s no luck finding a match you’ll get paired up with a bot instead, although it’s clever that they aren’t referred to as bots but as ‘worthy opponents’. The difficulty level of the bots is just right too; they aren’t all-invincible and are occasionally prone to stupidity, just like a regular human. Likewise, inviting friends to play is simple with the help of a few user-friendly menus. Also notable is the ability to link your Facebook account to the game, meaning that you can brag every time you are the victor.
Fruit vs Robot is a basic, but effective take on the social/multiplayer gaming genre that seems to be doing so well on mobile devices. The simple platform looks like it has a lot of flexibility and potential to be opened up for new kinds of games and categories of games and it’s also brilliant that Gravity Four are looking to get other developers involved in it as well. It’ll be interesting to see where this goes in the future and who knows? Maybe we’ll see a version for Windows Phones as well. Glass vs Fruit vs Robot, anybody?