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You can hide the clutter on the right, but you'll often need to use those commands.
Command & Conquer: Red Alert translates a great Mac and PC game into an adequate iPhone title. Instead of designing the action around the portable device, this version feels like developers crammed in as much of the full computer game as possible. We wanted a nimble, portable, action-strategy blitz, but got a clumsy game that frustrates as much as it entertains.
Red Alert casts you as commander of either a U.S.-European alliance or Russian threat in an alternate-history battle for the world. Fanciful sci-fi units, including attack bears, zeppelin bombers, and electrified turrets create most of the excitement.
You'll occasionally need to construct buildings before battle.
The strategy unfolds from those units' specific abilities. Bombers go unchallenged unless you have fighter planes or surface-to-air guns available; and tanks roll over rocket-launcher infantry in close range but are in danger if the soldiers are perched in buildings. This depth is the best part of Red Alert, although if you just amass enough powerful tanks, for example, you can often muscle past strategic attacks.
Red Alert downplays its building construction. You'll still want to strategically place defensive turrets to keep foes out of your base, but in the story mode, most everything is built for you already. And in those situations, you'll almost never run out of money, so you don't have to create buildings that mine resources for money. The cost per unit feels irrelevant; just keep buying more to slowly chip at the enemy.
Select missions cast you as an army of one, tossing strategy aside.
While sufficient, the game controls left us wanting a mouse and keyboard. You'll tap single units to make selections, and tap an enemy to attack. Double-tap a unit, and the game will select all of the same type. A mode lets you draw a box around units, select everything on the screen, and even toggle between three collections of your own choice. But we needed more precision, getting frustrated by trying to tap a vulnerable engineer out of a cluster of tanks. And a big palette of building commands often gets in the way of on-screen action.
The game felt buggy and slow on an iPhone 3G. Especially after creating a big army, audio effects stuttered, and we had to make multiple scroll and zoom gestures to see results. Red Alert took about 35 seconds to first load, and often 30 seconds to begin a level. It crashed occasionally, too.