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Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro’s blockbuster paean to classic Japanese monster flicks, seems tailor made for a video game adaptation, and Reliance Games' workmanlike effort dutifully pits enormous robot mechs (called Jaegers) against monstrous kaiju in a series of Infinity Blade-esque duels.
Swipe gestures are used to attack and parry, while virtual buttons allow for blocking and evading. The mechanics are straightforward, but Pacific Rim suffers from control problems: swiping parries are often delayed or ignored totally and require surgical precision. As a result, playing Pacific Rim sometimes feels like anticipating its clunky timing instead of responding to the on-screen action.
Once you get the hang of parrying and evading enemy attacks, though, Pacific Rim threatens to develop a fun groove, and being able to wallop a 20-story stag beetle with a satisfying crunch has an undeniable appeal. Unfortunately, the game’s reliance on cutscenes and non-playable finishing moves — presumably to show off its slick 3D visuals — interrupt the action too often. Long loading times and occasional freezes exacerbate Pacific Rim’s stuttering, stop-start rhythm.
Pacific Rim offers an array of customization options, too. Jaegers can upgrade their armor, speed, and strength, equip various upgradeable weapons, and use consumable items like healing nano-bots and air strikes. These bonuses compensate for the game’s uneven mechanics and difficulty curve rather than complement players’ styles or preferences, however, while also fueling its in-app purchases.
Some missions come with annoyingly specific criteria such as using three air strikes, or equipping high-level armor, and eventually players will be forced to buy costly new Jaegers to progress. Players gain money by defeating kaiju and completing objectives, but the scale is way off, leaving would-be pilots constantly destitute. Missions are replayable and money earned in Survival mode carries over to the campaign, though, so Pacific Rim’s in-app purchases are technically optional. Still, it’s a repetitive slog for players looking to avoid extra expenses.
Forcing players to use Jaegers they don’t want or can’t afford is a cheap trick, made all the more sleazy by Pacific Rim’s price and its de facto advertisement for the movie — but it might be excusable if grinding for money were more enjoyable in the first place.
The bottom line. Pacific Rim has the ideas for a fun game, but none of the execution or respect for players’ time and money.
iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch running iOS 5.0 or later
Detailed visuals capture the look and scale of Pacific Rim. Controls should be familiar to most players.
Fights feel uneven and stuttery, bogged down by input delays. Loads of in-app purchases ruin the pacing and mission structure.