Acorn Assault: Rodent Revolution (Xbox One Review)
The French Revolution is one of the defining points of human history. It started the shift towards liberal democracy in the western world and set a trend of abolition of monarchy. It also set the stage for the rise of Napoleon’s authoritarian regime and lead to the first known instance of Total War: a country devoting every aspect of its citizenry and government to armed conflict.This was no February Revolution, which birthed the 2nd French Republic, there was little in the way of liberte, egalite and especially not fraternite. It was a brutal affair that made way for an even more brutal century. So it’s kind of bizarre to see it played out by anthropomorphic squirrels, to be quite honest.
And that’s the jumping off point for Acorn Assault, a game I’m not sure how to categorise. It has match 3 elements; so it may be a puzzle game, it features tactics and conflict; so you could call it a strategy game, or is it a card game given you get a set of cards each turn and have to damage the other enemy past their cards?
It comes out somewhere in between, as you use your cards to place units on a grid that’s split between you and your opponent. At the end of each turn all of your offensive units will attack directly in front of themselves. If there’s a unit or barrier in the way then they’ll take the damage, if not then your opponent themselves will take that damage. If you place 3 units or barriers next to each other they’ll merge and become a more powerful version of the same thing. Matching units also gives you acorns, which work as currency and allow you to heal yourself, raise the strength of your barriers or boost the attack damage of your units. It’s not a complicated game, but it does take a good long while to master.
So far so good, right? Unfortunately Acorn Assault hamstrings your progress from the off by giving pitching you first against an enemy that complicates the playstyle you’re just learning while you’re learning it.
Spoiler alert, but your first match up is against a squirrel who steals some of your acorns each turn. This means that each turn you end with acorns left over you’re giving them extra resources to use against you. This can lead to the AI keeping itself alive indefinitely with repeated healing. It’s obvious how you need to approach this: by being very careful about how many acorns you have left at the end of each turn.
It’s far too much to slap down on a newbie’s plate, and paradoxically means that the first opponent is the most difficult one in the game. It’s certainly the least friendly to the learning experience. And once you’ve worked your way through that get ready to endure a cavalcade of Frenchy squirrels and parodical characters. There’s Mary Antoinutte, who just wants to give you cake, for example. One less witty character is the gatekeeper who repeatedly vomits Holy Grail quotes, and “shoots in your general direction”.
Each character is rendered in glorious PS1 era 3D, thanks to this being a mobile phone port which has clearly not seen much of an upgrade, if any. At the very least I can say the art style is consistent and well thought out. The writing is so meaningless that it may as well not be there, and that’s a bit of the general feeling I get from Acorn Assault overall.
Acorn Assault is a game that probably would’ve been better off as a strictly online multiplayer game. The format lends itself very well to competitive play, but unfortunately only features local multiplayer for some reason. As it stands the majority of the actual gameplay is butting heads with the AI, and it’s not a rewarding or interesting experience. Instead it’s more of a grind, like running headfirst into a wall over and over until eventually you make a hole in it.
It may have worked fairly well as a mobile game that you play for 3 minutes at a time, but brought to the home console scene its issues become glaringly obvious. It’s even missing fairly standard quality of life inclusions like the simple ability to go back on small decisions like where to spend acorns at the end of your turns. Even being able to consider your options by placing and removing units would be an addition that would have made the experience of playing a whole lot more palatable. As it stands Acorn Assault is a frustrating, dull, uninspired slog that will most likely drive you nuts.