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12 Mar 2014 Mobile

Frozen Synapse Review

Frozen Synapse, from developers Mode 7, has carved a strong niche for itself since its release on PC in 2011 and since then it has landed on Android and iOS, making it easy to get stuck into this deep, tactical title while on the move. Frozen Synapse takes the conventions of turn-based strategy games and throws in the exciting concept of turns being played out simultaneously after two players have finished providing instructions to their units. The game struck all the right notes on PC but how has it translated to mobile devices?

Frozen Synapse places the player in the role of a commander with an overhead view of units moving around an office environment split up by walls of varying heights. Unlike turn-based strategies, you can provide orders to each of your units and even simulate the result of your instructions before going ahead (although this doesn’t take the enemy’s movements into account). When you’re ready you can commit to your choices and watch what happens when both your instructions and your opponent’s are enacted simultaneously over several seconds.

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Several unit types are available, each carrying a different weapon. These range from rifles, shotguns and grenade launchers to a fully fledged rocket launcher. Using each of these tools in the most effective possible way while predicting your opponent's movement is key to victory. All of this combined with the various possible commands that you can issue makes for a very complex experience that may act as a barrier for some new players. Lengthy tutorials are provided but they only go so far in easing the rather steep learning curve.

Thankfully, if you persevere and get your head around the basics of Frozen Synapse, there is a lot of deep, tactical gameplay waiting for you. Plenty of options are provided: instant skirmish and the skirmish generator allow you to practice against the computer (with various settings available in the latter) while a full campaign complete with a cyberpunk story is available for those looking for a more absorbing experience. There is even a hot seat mode for players who enjoy the all too rare brand of fun offered by local multiplayer.

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Online multiplayer is where a lot of the action is in Frozen Synapse and the mobile versions don’t cut down on this side of the game at all. The online experience is completely compatible across the mobile versions and the PC version so you’ll be able to challenge players on any system. If you own the PC version already then you could feasibly switch between the two platforms depending on whether you’re at home or on the move.

Not everything about the mobile version is ideal though. There is often a lot of information to take in from the game’s interface and things can become quite cluttered on a tablet’s screen. Thankfully, the ability to zoom in and out generally makes it easier to enter the commands you wish to without making mistakes but it’s definitely a slower and more cumbersome process than on PC. This being said, Frozen Synapse is hardly a fast-paced game and you can take your time to get everything right.

Frozen Synapse is a deep and engaging strategy title that has a lot to offer players who are willing to take the time to learn their way around the complexities of the gameplay. The cyberpunk-themed narrative of the campaign is backed up with electronic music and simple but vibrant graphics which help to create an appropriately futuristic feel. If you enjoy strategy and you’re not afraid of spending some time to learn the ropes then Frozen Synapse definitely deserves your attention.

Kit Goodlife

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