G5 Entertainment is onto something with this game. By blending real time strategy with their traditional, almost campy, cartoonish style and a pinch of the old 'I Spy'' puzzles, they have created a fun, fast-paced game that at the very least paves the way for something great if G5 can put it all together.
The story, which by no means is anything to pay attention to, puts you in the shoes of a young man sent back in time by riding a theme park ride – yes, it's that simple, just smile and nod. So he immediately falls into the 'prophecy'' of the native people who are trying their best to not offend any one particular group of people, but they instead offend everyone by apparently lacking the ability to make any decision whatsoever without help from 'The Chosen One'' (that's you).
Real-time strategy may be the wrong word; think more the management games like Rollercoaster Tycoon where people being sad is just as terrifying as an incoming bloodthirsty army in a comparable real time war game. You start each level with a few buildings in place and just one or two villages to command. It's your job to begin storing food and wood to then quickly turn into buildings and fuel for the more villages that join as your settlements grow. 90% of the game is the efficiency at which you can tell your people what to do. The game helps you by popping up icons over the buildings where attention is needed, or where a favor can be granted (such as a bar, bath, or theatre). There is an element of keeping everyone happy, but it's hard to disappoint – you see an icon, you press the building. 5% of the game is picking up supplies and the other 5% is the initial game where you must decide how to get your food and wood piles started because from there neither should be much of a problem. Once you figure out that villages and gold will spawn with each house upgrade you won't have much else to apply your brain toward.
The levels do a decent job of keeping things interesting, such as mixing up what can be gathered and what can be 'produced'' at special buildings. You will always see the current objectives on the bottom of the screen, so you never lose sight of what you are hoarding for. The levels swap between big purchases, I Spy puzzles, clean-up projects, and X amount of commands in order to finish; often times combining several of these final tasks in succession. The situations do change on a few levels, such as moving to a new area or uncovering something to repair. But for the most part the game plays the same in each level.
Do not think these are grand, epic strategy puzzles over populations exceeding 100. No, think more of a village of 10 buildings with 15 or so people to command – that is the scale this game tops out at. Some levels do have invading enemies, but they are just single enemies and if you can tap your finger fast you are able to hammer them yourself. The times when your dino friends or watch towers help repel foes are always cool, but these moments are also a little sad as you may feel like the kid in the back seat of a car as your parents drive past Disney Land to take you to the dentist – you wish the game would amp things up a bit, but at best you could rationalize it as a true RTS set on the two or three levels below easy. But if you can make it to the second half of the game the micro-managing does pick up a bit. Though each level is just five minutes or so long, there are enough levels to last around 5 hours or so. With a scoring system you may have some incentive to replay some levels.
There are a few obvious flaws. The first being that at times there is just nothing happening on the screen for you to do. It's also a chore when a level does not provide much of a certain resource, like when the only income of wood is from the logs that magically pop up in the middle of town every 30 seconds or so – you will just sit around waiting for the mail to arrive 'Ah yes, timber! Santa knew exactly what I wanted!'' A possible solution would be a barter system, a market if you will, because everything caps in a level (food, gold, wood, villagers, stuff to build and upgrade). Hate to sound evil, but you will always reach a point where you just say, 'Why do I have all these villagers? They aren't doing anything.'' Some levels the game will justify the population count by having a final build order take up 10 or so at a brisk pace, but on most levels you'll have thousands of units of food and wood, a surplus of gold, and more villagers than houses – there's a rich/ poor and evil corporation joke to made here, but this isn't the game to reflect real world problems against. Poking paths are sometimes unclear (which is kind of funny when you're trying to grab something and are instead starting and stopping a build order), and the story inserts and dialogue just interrupt play as I can't imagine anyone will stop to read what the characters are blabbering about. So yes, a story outline that could probably fit on one piece of paper, one side, double-spaced, 11 font, and one inch margins does not make for much added motivation.
If you are a hardcore gamer you may have no business playing this game. But if you enjoy a light-hearted adventure with a dash of strategy and micro-management, then you may consider getting this one. It's a great game for children as an entry level mash-up of gaming concepts. All in all this is a solid game for your iPad, a charming title that mostly suffers from a lack of challenge. It won't be everyone's cup of tea, but everyone can find something to like about Jack of All Tribes HD.
Final Rating: 83%