Sometimes you just need to remind your friends how superior you are at gaming then them. When that time comes and you don’t have a console at hand, this is the game to do it with. Ultimate Battle Arena is one of the newest offerings in the iOS App Store, developed by Marek Unucka to be his first title published on Apple’s distribution platform. A simple but fun time waster, this game allows for a variety of mini-games to be played solo or with friends without the necessity of each having their own device.
Across every mode the game revolves around using a control stick in a corner of the screen to control the movement of a small, circular tank with a button on either side of the joystick used to perform an action whether it’s firing the cannon mounted on top of the vehicle, deploying an offensive tower, or using a collected item. The presence of an action button on either side of the joystick does make the game ambidextrous, a nice touch to help even the odds in those bloody competitions.
The 14 game modes accessible from the main menu include everything from basic Deathmatch, an all out gunfight between you and your friends, to a clever reinvention of the classic mobile game Snake; From Zombie killing to a top down arcade-esque arena Race. However many are almost identical with small tweaks such as the items available to pick up and whether players reset upon death thus losing any power-ups they’ve collected and their position in the arena.
With more than twenty items and powerups with various effects, memorizing can be a bit too much of a chore for the group just wanting to jump right into the action and instead you’ll likely just end up snatching whatever you can from out of the path of your opponents. This can lead to some amusing surprises and a fair amount of confusion making for a fun bout. The local multiplayer, the only multiplayer offering, is characterized by what gamers make of it, attested by experience playing with multiple people.
The similarity between each of the game modes allows for a more level learning curve when becoming acquainted with the characteristics of the controls, but it also sets it apart from party games that are more varied between mini-games. That said, almost every mini-game is customizable in that players can change the time limit, lives or victories to win, but other characteristics such as the location of the control sticks and player colors are fixed in place.
With four controls, one in each corner, the game allows four people to sit in a circle and play together; four friends who you don’t mind being really close to. However, as the controls are locked to the corners of the screen and cannot be relocated to other positions playing can sometimes be tricky as the device must be held at an angle.
Docile non-gamer friends who you hold at knifepoint to play to escape the shame of spending money on an app you can’t play alone will make for a boring time; friends with whom you make your mission to compete over every little detail will have you beating the screen in fury at your loss and wondering how such a simple game could be so fun.
Most of the game modes require more than one person and the few that are limited to single play lack the competitive value of the other modes as the game lacks any expressed in-game rewards. For a culture that thrives on virtually meaningless achievements, this title’s lack thereof may leave something to be desired. However, doubtlessly, the lone achievement hunters are not Unucka’s target audience. Your spontaneous assembly of family or friends likely won’t feel the absence of this feature.
There is no online support, period, and the absence is felt. This move is surprising considering how streamlined Game Center integration is with other Apps. The little “f” in the top corner of the menu gives the impression that it might feature score sharing on Facebook… but nope! That just leads to the game’s Facebook page.
While not technically a bad game, Ultimate Battle Arena is the type of game you download to play at a party one time, you play a few games that night, and then you feel guilty about spending money on a game you never play again. During a storm or on an airplane when there’s no internet access, it’s great to play with your neighbor but that’s the only time it’s going to come to mind.
With a $1.99 price point, it’s a bit steep for its limitations, and not nearly as satisfying for the solo player as other games in its price range. However, with a good group of friends this game is something a little different than the typical party Charades or Duck Duck Goose which gives it the potential to be a hit.
A Lite version of the game which limits the amount of players and some customization options is also offered in the App Store to try before you buy.