Portabliss: Robot Unicorn Attack 2 (iOS)

Portabliss Robot Unicorn Attack 2 iOS
Is it possible you haven't played Robot Unicorn Attack yet? It's by far Adult Swim's most popular onilne Flash game, and not only is it available to play for free (in a few different forms) in your browser, but it's about a robot unicorn collecting fairies and dashing through star crystals while the 2009 remix of Erasure's "Always" plays in the background. Seriously, you better have played this.

The game's also spawned three different versions on iOS, including the original, a Heavy Metal version, and a special Christmas edition. But now the full numbered sequel has arrived on iPhones and iPads, and it's made by PikPok, the developers behind the excellent Monsters Ate My Condo games.

I'll hit the sourest note first: "Always" isn't in this one. At least not right away.
The developers told us that the unmistakable soundtrack's license costs were holding the series back from being free-to-play (and reaching a much larger potential audience), and so "Always" has been replaced with some original music from game composer Module – at least in the beginning. We'll get back to that.

All credit to Module, because the new music isn't bad, and it doesn't directly ape Erasure. But the feeling of watching a robot unicorn gallop through a Lisa Frank wasteland without that original soundtrack is indeed diminished.

The "Adult" part of Adult Swim is toned back a bit here as well. Your unicorn's head still flies off in an explosion when your "wish" ends, but instead of a closeup on the gorey robotic leftovers, you get a cleaner scoring screen instead. That move also seems calculated to play a little nicer with a wider audience, but it makes the sequel more earnest than charmingly edgy.

The biggest innovation here is in the replay. There's a different level to play every day in the app, and your scores are charted via Game Center achievements and leaderboards. PikPok has added in Jetpack Joyride-style goals ("Find 20 fairies" or "Dash through 10 crystals") that earn you stars which increase your rank. And ranking up unlocks other features, like a daily goal to chase, a community goal for all players, and various boosts to use while playing.

Portabliss Robot Unicorn Attack 2 iOS
There's also a "multiplayer battle," in that at rank 6, you choose a faction, and all of your playing goes towards a certain goal, with the winning faction getting a daily bonus. I'll see you on the correct side: Inferno.

The game's Unicorn Tear currency is used for everything. It's what you use to buy boosts, and you can also use it to redo your runs, or even add an extra run if you can afford it (four wish runs are listed separately on the leaderboards, which is thoughtful). Tears are also used to customize your unicorn with various wings, horns, and rainbow trails that increase your speed or add extra jumps or quicker dashes.

And it's back there, in the customization section, where Robot Unicorn Attack 2 really hides its brilliance. You can buy tracks, via an in-app purchase of 99 cents, to play in the background. That's where Erasure's "Always" is, and PikPok has added Corey Hart's "Never Surrender," Limahl's "Never Ending Story," and Slade's "Run Run Away" as musical options. All of them are gorgeous and perfect for a game like this.

To buy them all, you'll need to pay $3.96 of real money. They do each come with in-app currency, but there's no way to download the songs otherwise, no way to simply play the game to unlock them.

Robot Unicorn Attack 2 is still a lot of fun, and there's no end of content to play with here. With the freemium mechanics, however, and the tamer feel in general, the experience has been cheapened. Games about robot unicorns will always be welcome around these parts (if I have any say in it), but this particular iteration does stick its horn right up to the line of selling out.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.