Grabatron: Cow-Abducting, Redneck-Aggravating Fun

Grabatron is a brilliantly fun and exceptionally polished tilt-control game. You take the reigns of a flying saucer in a slickly rendered American farmland. You have one weapon: a huge grabbing arm (a bit like those arcade grabber games!) which you can use on pretty much everything in the environment – animals, people, vehicles, buildings, pipes and even rocks.

The game is dripping in that nostalgic 1950′s paranoia we often see in movies, but is instantly playable and buckets of fun. So grab your binoculars, shotgun and tinfoil hat and read on for the low down on the invasion…

Close Encounters

You are Grabatron, a rather cute, yet relatively evil, flying saucer with an ongoing pattern of compulsively destructive behaviour. It’s lucky, then, that you find yourself deep in rural US of A where there are plenty of things to, well… grab, destroy, abduct and throw. You’re armed with a huge upgradeable grabbing arm with which you can grab, throw and smash anything you can see. You have a series of missions to complete; initially these are simple tasks like abducting stupid farmers or grazing cows, but you build up to far more explosive jobs like taking out a power station. There are about 30 missions in the game, so lots to do!

Grabatron, grabbing and being shot at.

Grabatron, grabbing and being shot at.

You should, however, expect quite a lot of resistance because the good countryside people don’t take kindly to being menaced by extra terrestrials. There’s everything from your basic rock-throwing youth right up to some pretty serious military defense hardware and surface-to-air missiles out to stop you, although you mostly come across grumpy (yet notably paranoid and very trigger-happy) farmers to start with. You have a health meter which gradually goes down the more you are hit, but this can be replenished by abducting particular animals or people who are highlighted by an arrow.

You have to move your craft with a very responsive tilt control: left, right, up and down. I’m not always a fan of this navigational method but it works perfectly with Grabatron. Some game elements (like being heavily shot at) can leave the controls a little disorientated, but you can easily pause and recalibrate mid-game. There are touchscreen controls included too, but I found these to be horribly counter intuitive after you’ve used the superior tilt controls.

Recalibration tool is useful after a heavy attack

The recalibration tool is useful after a heavy attack

As mentioned earlier, you have plenty of missions to complete. The missions are usually triggered by you grabbing a particular item – so if you pick up a cow, you then have to collect eight cows in total to complete the mission, and so on. Other missions are trickier, like abducting armed farmers or destroying buildings. These get progressively harder and soon you’ll be taking out military hardware and power stations.

It’s Life, but Not as We Know It

Simply put, the visuals and sound effects in the game make it instantly immersive and atmospheric. Grabatron has a slew of one liners, and you also get loads of quips from redneck farmers, cops and civilians. This alone is loads of fun, but then there are then oodles of cool explosion sounds, grabbing effects and gunfire noises. Music has a typically Sci-Fi feel to it and sounds perfect to the backdrop of screams, gunfire and farmyard sounds. This all contributes wonderfully to the gameplay and is relatively flawless in this regard.

Despite being 2D graphics, they are immaculately detailed.

Although the graphics are 2D, they are immaculately detailed.

The graphics are 2D, since you only move from side to side and up and down, but the tilt and movement of your flying saucer does add an ‘almost 3D’ element to the graphics, which is really effective. You also have stuff going on behind you in the far distance, so this adds to the visualisation too. The sprites are beautifully rendered and often very detailed. Grabatron himself looks brilliant as he flies about and the grabbing animations also look superb, highly responsive and intricately detailed.

Arrowed humans/animals replenish your energy, or help your mission

Arrowed humans/animals replenish your energy, or help your mission

The aesthetics of the game, combined with the perfectly executed sound effects, make playing Grabatron a hugely enjoyable experience. The blend here is just right. It’s hard to explain explicitly, but you genuinely feel a slightly jarred after being shot at repeatedly and the slight disorientation of the calibration adds to this. Whether this is the intention of the developer or not, it really works and you feel somewhat shaken up. The graphics in Grabatron might not be quite the very best we can see in the Android Market, but with effects like this you’ll find yourself not really caring too much.

Take Me to Your Leader

After playing the game for quite a few days now, I have to say that it’s very engrossing and loads of fun. I regularly find myself laughing out loud to the some of the zany one-liners eminating from the various humans. I even like the pointlessly belligerent way some of them just throw rocks at you. There’s quite a lot of depth in Grabatron too as you can upgrade your saucer in addition to finding bonuses. A quick tip might be to explore… there’s all manner of caves and underground parts which house armour upgrades and bonus points!

http://youtu.be/bUmCqMoP1fU

Gameplay is hugely rewarding, even the shudder-inducing occasions when you get attacked by the army and unceremoniously shot down. There is lots to see and do and the freedom to complete many missions however you like. You can pick up a huge concrete tube, drag it along the floor- crushing screaming civilians in the process. Take a fuel tanker and drop it down a hole. Throw a police car on top of a diner or, if you’re feeling especially confident, grab a military Jeep and drop it into the rotors of a helicopter – they don’t like that!

I have found the game to be incredibly addictive and I find myself firing the game up at any spare moment. The controls remind me a little of gravity based games like Abduction! or Hyper Jump, and the accuracy and responsiveness of the accelerometer are quite similar. The developer, Future Games of London, is also responsible for the hugely popular Hungry Shark series of games, so you might have come across them before. With the series of Hungry Shark games now on #3, I sincerely hope Grabatron will also continue to grow and expand. I’d personally like to see Grabatron over 1960s London!

You often find bonuses underground

You often find bonuses underground

Conclusion

Grabatron is a pure joy to play and lots of fun indeed. There is plenty of variety in gameplay and mission-style, so despite the simple controls there’s loads to complete and achieve. I felt the game was highly addictive, exceptionally immersive and inventive throughout. You can tell a lot of work has gone into blending the various elements of the game – gameplay, sound, and graphics – in order to not only compliment each other and work well, but also to hold the interest of the gamer for long periods.

Grabatron is a superb Android game and something you should definitely check out. There is a free version of the game, called Grabatron Country, so you have little or no excuse not to give it a try!


Summary

A destructive festival of alien exploration. Grabatron is a gorgeous, additive and fun-filled romp in Extraterrestrial Paranoia-ville USA. Complete inventive missions, explore the countryside and enjoy the stunning graphics and music. A superb and addictive game, worth many hours of compulsive gameplay.

9
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