When you take a great idea for a mobile game and turn it into a PC game, sometimes that idea doesn't turn out all that great. This is the case with Rigonauts, a charming build-and-battle game that poses some cool ideas, most of which would work better if they stayed confined to iOS and Android devices. The funny thing is that this game is not yet available for said platforms. As it stands, Rigonauts turns out to be a fun little distraction, but it's not without a few not-so-pleasant quirks.
You play as a race of creatures known as the Hobs. After being forced to perform grueling tasks for their evil masters, these guys decide it's time to get the heck away. So what do they do? They build a ship and plan their escape, ready for any cruel overlords that may get in their way.
Each of the levels tasks you with customizing your ship and doing battle with your oppressors. You have access to a variety of tools such as tires, wood, bones, cannons, and guns. The cool thing about Rigonauts is that you can't just slap some guns on your ship and call it a day. You need to place your weapons in spots that will be effective. If your ship tips over during battle, the placement of a few cannons can decide whether you defeat an equally (or much more heavily) armed ship.
Battles are automated, so you never actually have direct control over what pans out once you customize your ship. You can select a few targets to focus your attacks on, but when you start a battle, you basically watch your Hobs blast away, all the while getting blasted themselves. It's fun seeing the little ships taking each other on, and while I initially scoffed at this gameplay design, I soon realized that Rigonauts wouldn't really work the way it was intended if you could control your ship's movement.
Battles get tougher as you progress, and as your enemies get stronger, you need to customize as effective of a ship as possible. Because you have limited modifications every time, you need to experiment with your ship designs. Unfortunately, later levels have a high reliance on trial-and-error. Needless to say, it can get frustrating trying to redesign your ship and failing to find something that works against the barrage of cannonballs your enemies are firing at you. Rigonauts is physics-based, so you never know what's going to happen. One moment you can lose a battle because your ship tipped over, only to try again with that same ship and come out on top. Some players will find this element comical, while others may find it frustrating.
You receive star rankings after successfully completing levels. The less parts you use on a ship, the higher your rank. Rigonauts keeps track of the stars you've earned, and in order to progress to later levels, you need to accrue a set number of stars. This poses a bit of an issue because you're then forced to create smaller ships for battle. Not only can this make each level unnecessarily tough to complete, but it takes away from the novel building aspect of Rigonauts.
Unfortunately, unpredictable physics and ranking limitations aren't the only flaws this game suffers from. Customizing your ship is handled with the computer mouse, but oftentimes, the controls are a bit unresponsive and finicky. Having to move pieces around to create your ideal ship is important, so it's a shame that this aspect of the game is flawed. Additionally, while there are plenty of levels, nothing ever really changes. Yes, you ultimately encounter multiple enemies with stronger tower-like ships, but you're essentially experiencing the exact same formula without any nuances the entire time.
Rigonauts is a game suited for mobile platforms. As an iOS and Android title, I can totally see this game succeeding. But as a $10 game on the PC, it's just a bit too pricey. The building mechanics and simple artistic charm are tailor made for what should be a mobile time sink. It's hard to justify a purchase on the PC, because even though the game is fun a lot of the time, there are too many hindrances keeping it down. When Rigonauts lands on mobile devices, though, I would definitely suggest you check it out then.
For a bunch of indie game and burrito talk, follow @thesanchezdavid on Twitter.