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Portabliss: Great Big War Game (iOS, Android)


Did you know that you can download handheld games now? That's amazingly convenient! The only inconvenient part of it is finding the right games to buy -- and that's where we come in, with our Portabliss column. In each installment, we'll tell you about a downloadable game on the iPhone, iPad, Android device, DSi, 3DS, PSP, etc. Today: Great Big War Game.

Turn-based strategy games are in for something of a renaissance, it seems. A brand new XCOM is on the way, Hero Academy has made a splash on iOS and is now headed to PC, and now, Great Big War Game has landed on iOS and Android, with Windows, Mac and Blackberry Playbook versions on the way. Great Big War Game, the sequel to Great Little War Game, takes a few cues from military-themed turned-based strategy games, reminding me in particular of the colorful Advance Wars series.

The gist of it is pretty simple: You gather resources, build units and then use your tiny tanks and soldiers to outwit and destroy the enemy.

Gallery: Great Big War Game (iOS, Android) | 10 Photos

Everything is presented in a whimsical way, from the bumbling Generalissimo to the funny quips units make when performing actions – "another win for the second amendment." The characters themselves are gruff caricatures of military stereotypes, all teeth with a helmet covering their eyes. The vehicles too are squat, cartoonish versions of tanks, destroyers and jeeps.

There are numerous units to build, ranging from different soldiers to a variety of vehicles. Staying true to the traditional "rock, paper, scissors" formula followed by most strategy games, each unit has different strengths and weaknesses. The sniper, for example, is great at taking down infantry from long range, but barely makes a dent on vehicles. To take out tanks and the like, you'd be better served with a grenadier or bazooka soldier. Meanwhile, an MLRS is perfect for destroying vehicles at range, but you'll want a flame tank for taking out enemy infantry.

Beyond basic tactics, there are also other layers of strategy to consider. It's important to capture structures with your engineers for example. Capturing oil derricks will reward you with extra cash at the beginning of each turn, while other buildings will let you manufacture vehicles or train soldiers. You can even capture enemy structures, which can offer a huge advantage. Capture an enemy factory and you take away their ability to build vehicles while simultaneously letting you deploy your own on the enemy's doorstep.

Most of the missions I've played required me to destroy the enemy headquarters, though occasionally I've had to kill the enemy Generalissimo or protect my own. One mission in particular tasked me with keeping my Generalissimo alive for ten turns as the enemy advanced on me with a horde of tanks and elite commandos. Only by deploying turrets and mines and capturing an MLRS did I stave off the attack – and even then just barely.

In addition to the 50 mission campaign, Great Big War Game also includes a 1-on-1 skirmish mode against AI as well as both local pass-and-play and online asynchronous multiplayer. The multiplayer is compatible across platforms, so iOS users can duke it out with Android users and vice versa. The game allows players to join or create open games as well, so there's no need to worry about finding matches if none of your friends are into military strategy.

If that is the case, however, I suggest you introduce said friends to the joys of launching an artillery shell into a pack of unsuspecting soldiers.

Great Big War Game is available for $2.99 on iTunes and Google Play. We're always looking for new distractions. Want to submit your game for Portabliss consideration? You can reach us at portabliss aat joystiq dawt com.

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