APP OF THE DAY: War on Terror review (iPhone / iPod touch)

One of the things about the rapid rise of the app is that its very make-up allows for independent developers to rub shoulders with software from giant publishers on an, almost, even playing field.

Obviously, it's unlikely that the smaller companies and programmers have the marketing budgets of their corporate bedfellows, and therefore find it harder to spread the word about their applications, so that's partly why we devised App of the Day here on Pocket-lint; we like to give apps from small indies as much chance of being "discovered" as anything from Electronic Arts, Gameloft or others.

One of those just happens to be...

War on Terror

Format
iPhone, iPod touch
Price
£1.49 (50 per cent off to celebrate becoming a Pocket-lint "App of the Day")
Where
iTunes

Put together by British board game indie Terrorbull Games, War on Terror doesn't really need a massive marketing spend to get its name out there. It's already got a certain amount of kudos from the fact that the board game it's based on was embroiled in controversy before it was even released.

Dubbed "sick", one copy of the game was even seized by British police due to the fact that it contained a free balaclava in every box, but it is its general theme that upset the British press the most, even though they'd neither played nor seen the product beforehand (as is often the way).

Basically, it is a cross between Risk, Diplomacy and Settlers of Catan, but with a satirical sense of humour. The board itself is certainly very Risk-esque (Risky?), and, in many respects, the territory grabbing and world domination theology is similar. However, Risk doesn't allow you to fund terrorism in rival countries.

War on Terror does, with the ability to nuke your opponents added for good measure, and thus is an easy target for the flame-fanning journo hacks on national newspapers. Taken out of context, these features may indeed seem "sick", but that's to people who miss the point entirely.

Terrorbull's board game is, in fact, a witty, clever satirical attack on the so-called "War on Terror" and the subsequent excuses used to invade Iraq in the aftermath of the atrocities of 9/11. Its tone owes much to Private Eye, while its graphical style is a blend of those of TV shows Have I Got News for You and 2DTV. It is humour with an edge. And beneath the sharp cynicism, there's a bloody good game in there too.

The iPhone/iPod touch app version, sadly, isn't as feature rich as its tangible parent, missing the chance cards that can turn the tides of a battle or attack, but it is a complex and challenging game nonetheless. The world domination element remains, as does the Catan-style resource distribution scheme after each round of turns. Once occupied, each country is allocated a number and, during the Oil reaping phase, a dice roll determines which of them receives monetary reward; if the number is the same as the roll, a certain amount of money is awarded.

This is vitally important, as it is this money that allows you to take over unoccupied territories, go to war with neighbouring countries, attempt to destabilise rivals by funding terrorism, fight terrorism in your own countries, or improve your defensive/attacking strength. The number of countries you have in your ward also determines how many Liberation Points you have to spend; accumulate five and you can call a nuclear strike.

That's basically it, although there are some amusing headlines and surprises along the way to add to the proceedings. Currently, there's no multiplayer mode, but you can play against up to five AI rivals, and longetivity comes from the game being particularly hard to master.

We'll admit that War on Terror won't be everybody's cup of tea, with some genuinely not appreciating the sense of humour that is its bedrock. Those that do, however, will find a cracking game that will help while away several hours at a pop. Just not, perhaps, on a flight...

You can find out more about War on Terror and Terrorbull Games at www.terrorbullgames.co.uk.