Appropriately enough for a surreal, absurdest title like this, the original Robot Unicorn Attack got its start on the Internet as flash game. It was released in early 2010, a year when there seemed to be an unusual obsession for blogs and memes that focused on wacky combinations of random items. The massive popularity of the game quickly spread and it wasn't long before Robot Unicorn Attack made its way to mobile platforms and all manner of re-skinned spinoffs. With the arrival of Robot Unicorn Attack 2, we now have a sequel that appears to be every bit as shiny and ridiculous as its predecessor.
The phrase "Robot Unicorn Attack" is a combination of words that, much like the NBC theme, hits three notes that seem to be perfectly tuned to one another, forming a whole that makes sense for some reason. In retrospect, it now does not seem a coincidence that 2010 also marked the start of the My Little Pony re-launch and the bizarre Bronie phenomenon. There's some thread connecting all of this, but I'll be dammed if I know what it is.
In terms of the nuts and bolts, the gameplay is essentially the same in Robot Unicorn Attack 2. You still control a metallic unicorn that races across a sugar-coated dream world, past rainbows, giants, and dolphins as you leap over obstacles and smash through stars for as long as you can.
The control of your unicorn is still pretty much just tapping the screen, but there's more to be done than just double and single jumps. The stages have more room to explore now and the more you level up with new abilities, the more you'll be able to find different paths to take. The levels are also randomly generated every day, so there won't be anything to get used to.
Even though the gameplay has largely stayed the same, the look and feel has changed quite a bit. Everything in Robot Unicorn Attack 2 is shinier and cuter than ever before. Befitting the Adult Swim "extreme" philosophy that gives many of its shows and games their distinctive flavor, RUA2 is turbo-injected with joy and wonder.
The levels are dense with details and small visual touches, which sometimes distracted me from the action as it got more and more fast paced. There's floating castles, planets, and even a giant, space whale/narwhal that floats around in the background. The rich and polished atmosphere of everything helps to distract from the fact that you're essentially playing the same game.
Borrowing ideas from some of the popular endless runners that have been released since it first came out, there are plenty of challenges to take on in RUA2, from collecting a specific amount of fairies to jumping through a set number of rings. Completing these objectives will help you increase your rank and unlock new abilities, powers, and a second stage: The Ice World. There are also community challenges that everyone contributes to, with data being collected from everyone who has RUA2 installed on their mobile device.
If you never played the first Robot Unicorn Attack, you likely have no idea how much British synth-pop band Erasure matters to the enjoyment of this game. The re-mix of their song Always was one of the most memorable parts of the original experience and to have it absent in this game feels like there's an essential part missing.
Well, absent isn't exactly fair. The song is still in the game, but you have to unlock it with an in-app purchase of $0.99, which actually is a reasonable price point, considering it's a licensed song. I appreciate how laid back the microtransactions are in this game, as they manage to avoid the incessant bludgeoning that some games apply with their in-app purchases. Still, it feels like something is missing with the different default music.
And that same sentiment is overall what I feel when playing this game. Like the first title, RUA2 still boils down to one endless runner of a gag. I feel like I'm still playing through the same joke in this title, albeit a better-looking one with lots more features, customization, social elements and unlockables. Perhaps it ultimately comes down to just playing to a core audience, something that every game basically does at some level. While I enjoyed the first RUA and appreciate the absurdity and inside-jokieness of everything, I'm definitely not that core audience and did not find myself returning to this game as much as I did the first one.