A great story, but not a great game
The popularity of the App Store since it’s opening in 2008 has grown exponentially, both in downloads and in active apps available. As such, it should come as no surprise that it has become a great bulletin board for marketing teams looking score awareness for a new product or franchise. Tie-in apps and games now regularly pop up in the App Store and, for better or worse, they probably aren’t going anywhere.
Electric City: The Revolt is, by the fluffiest of definitions, a game. More than anything, it’s a virtual billboard for an animated web series, Electric City, created by and starring Tom Hanks. The show will more than likely be fantastic, and a little reminder to check it out would be totally fine. Unfortunately, they went ahead and tried to put an actual game together.
Electric City: The Revolt aims to tell the story of Electric City, a township that has been rebuilt after the fall of civilization. This new society is ruled by a dictatorial regime that controls and limits the distribution of electrical power and digitally transmitted information. Players take control of rebel Frank Deetleman and attempt to lead an uprising to tear down oppression and bring freedom back to the city. To do this, you’ll play through eight levels of eclectic and seemingly random tasks.
Gameplay in Electric City: The Revolt is pretty all over the place. This feels like a game that doesn’t know what it wants to be. There is a stealth aspect when moving around the town, though it’s the least stealthy stealth you’ve ever stealthed. It consists of walking around or running. If you get spotted just turn the correct corner and you’ll lose your peruser, as the Allied Municipal Patrol is apparently the laziest law enforcement team ever. Of course, not getting spotted and escaping would be far easier with controls that actually worked. The on-screen D-pad is often barely responsive enough to work how you want it to and subtle movements are completely lost on it.
When you manage to navigate to certain points of the map, you’ll be presented with mini-games and challenges that come out of nowhere and have almost zero explanation to them. You’ll more than likely fail the first couple rounds with each in attempts to learn how to play, but fear not! The oppressive and militant police force that is there to stop your every attempt at creating free communication will warn you three times before punishing you for trying to overthrow their control. Maybe they aren’t so bad after all.
One thing that definitely can’t be taken away from Electric City: The Revolt is the non-gaming elements. The graphics are gorgeous. The sounds and ambiance are well executed, though the sirens when you get caught are annoying. It’s strongest point is its story telling, which features narration at points from Tom Hanks. It’s cool to hear his voice coming out of your portable device, there’s no denying that. I actually wanted to finish the game to get to the cut scenes and learn more about the story. If anything, it speaks well for what we should expect from the animated series. But that’s probably what they should have stuck to rather than branching into the iOS market.
Electric City: The Revolt is probably one of the best examples of how not to build hype for your intellectual property. It’s everything you fear from tie-in titles come to life: The game feels thrown together and tries to thinly hide the fact that it really only exists to remind you to watch the web show when it airs. Honestly, thanks to the story telling within the game, I probably will check out the show. But I would have anyway with Tom Hanks attached to it. Using a game to tell the back-story is a cool concept, especially for a story that revolves around electronic communication. It’s just a shame the actual game aspect is nearly unplayable.