Commando Jack (universal) from Chillingo is a real-time strategy game with a twist: players are not only the generals of what is going on around the battlefield, but have the ability to actually jump in behind a turret and let off a few rounds themselves. It’s not the most content packed game in the genre, but the first-person aspect of its gameplay does separate it from the million other RTS games in the App Store.
Many tower defense games are about an epic battle between two factions, and Commando Jack is no different, pitting humans against aliens in a war fueled by jealousy. After a short intro and tutorial, players are given some cash to spend and thrown into their first campaign level.
Like any other game in the genre, the point is to build intricate mazes across the screen to fight off multiple waves of enemies, racking up a high score and 3-star rating in the process. Of course, the only way to do this is by upgrading units and keeping the maze balanced and powerful in every turn and stretch along the way, across the game’s three difficulties.
When it comes to those features, Commando Jack is pretty standard – and compared to other recent titles like Fieldrunners 2 and Kingdom Rush, even feels a bit thin. But what makes Jack original is the player’s ability to control their own armed base. With the simple tap of a button, the vantage point switches from top-down to first-person, putting players shooting skills to the test as they blast away approaching enemies.
It’s definitely a unique gameplay mechanic, and one that is easily switched back and forth between during stages, when more towers have to be built or other tasks be completed. However, after time it does become a bit repetitive, because there are only two situations players really need to be behind the turret: either a sniper – which the AI turrets avoid, forcing the player to shoot the enemy – is on the map, or there are enemies in danger of reaching base. Any other time, there just isn’t a compelling reason to spend time behind the crosshairs, even though it is fun the first couple times playing the game to sit behind the turret and rock out.
Outside of that gameplay element, Jack is pretty average fair, with a limited number of maps and weapons for players to use across the campaign and endless modes. The levels are well-designed and all run smoothly in 3D, but none of the effects or enemy designs stand out, which can make some of the longer series of waves a bit mundane.
But Commando Jack provides an ability most real-time strategy games don’t: the ability to jump into the fray and shoot the heck out of some evil aliens. And for that, Jack is worth a purchase for tower defense fans, and gamers looking to get a little more hands-on with their strategy games.