Imagine sitting at a bar, crowded with regulars and local cliques. You usually enjoy your adventures here, but they have grown monotonous and stale. Every now and then a colorful character walks through to shake things up, but before you can buy them a drink they disappear, not likely to ever return.
Then someone new walks in. Someone scrappy and lean who owns a place at the bar but shoves her elbows in a few faces to get there. She stands out, but plans to stay longer than her quick visiting counterparts. Her presence could just fade into the rest of the crowd, but instead stands staunch against the usual flow. In the bar that is the iOS marketplace, that new patron is GiantSpaceKat’s Revolution 60.
Revolution 60 is a Kickstarter-funded, action-thriller game built on the Unreal Engine with a story line that launches itself violently into comparison alongside Mass Effect and Heavy Rain. Following the assassin Holiday and her fellow operatives working for spy agency Chessboard, Revolution 60 fuses dialogue trees and quicktime mechanics with sci-fi dancing aesthetics. The play style, reminiscent of Jet Set Radio and P.N.0.3, incorporate a giant mish-mash of systems and narratives ripped from an airport bookstore. Though sometimes extending past its own reach, Revolution 60 fulfills on the promise of a hard-boiled iOS action title.
The iOS interface bears mentioning because in many ways, Revolution 60 exists in conversation and in contrast with its fellow Unreal-based titles. Where games like Infinity Blade and similar copycats have forced combat into a soulless system they can charge $2.00 for at every opportunity, Revolution 60 pays tribute to choreographers and martial artists alike. The cinematic combat morphs its battles into a dance, with Holiday and her opponent moving about a chessboard-like surface, lining up blows and dodging various attack patterns. Holiday’s foes possess far more abilities than she does, but her tech tree contains enough agency to expand a player’s arsenal for this six hour experience that rewards both fast-paced and casual play in various difficulty modes.
Combat like this is a huge hurdle to overcome in iOS, and few games have managed a combat system that feels unique to the platform (tapping on a flat object,) and making sure the player’s hand does not obscure the view of game play.
While rejecting its cousins’ design choices in battle, Revolution 60 shows grudging respect in the exploration system, mimicking traditional iOS Unreal Engine-based movement and camera scanning techniques to explore the space station N313. In these moments previously designed around microtransactions, the game’s flow sadly stumbles. The environments waver between successfully tapping into the vibrant 1960’s aesthetic and sometimes occupying flat, repetitive passageways worthy of insults reserved for corridor shooters on home consoles. Instead of gold, players can discover medkits and intelligence files that define the game’s sole side quest -- a battle for Holiday’s loyalty. Despite its narrative and interactive failures, it’s interesting to watch Revolution 60 struggle delivering on mechanics that previously required money to succeed, especially when it desires players to engage without forced purchases.
Holiday and her spy friends feel like an angrier version of Charlie’s Angels, and their adventure plays out at the same pace and thematic resonance of similar action-spy escapades. Holiday’s battle against both the Chinese Special Forces and a rogue A.I. blazes through a lot of world-building and off-camera references, but sometimes wrestles with maintaining a clear sense of narrative or spatial continuity. Lines of dialogue meant to help propel the plot sometimes feel disconnected from relevant information, and Holiday’s final defiant shout before the credits roll skirts dangerously into the infamous dialogue of the first Resident Evil. But Holiday and her team remain largely engaging, and the game justifies an ambitious art style that could slip into the uncanny valley without proper direction. Holiday’s repeated encounters with a brute-class enemy are probably some of her best moments -- both in combat and with her quips.
The game’s decision to focus on consequence-based storytelling fits a genre-inherent theme about making hard calls in harder situations, but the results focus more on the hidden layers of the game’s conspiracies than it strives to interrogate the player’s personal morals. But that’s still a successful goal for a spy adventure. The player is still rewarded for participating in the narrative the way Holiday’s character suggests she would: making the best call she can and dealing with whatever comes as it does.
Revolution 60 is ultimately a game out to make a lot of noise. The rejection of microtransactions reflects on the status of the iOS market. The combat system is a crucible of engineering and design that spurns the dichotomy of the casual vs. hardcore gamer. Its all-women cast passes the Bechdel test in the first two minutes and it jabs at the game community by flipping the script on the supposed difficulty level of “Girlfriend Mode.” These individual bits may not always connect seamlessly, but when they do, a rewarding spirit of badassery emerges, intertwining both dancing and spycraft.
Revolution 60 is available now on iOS for $6 and can be purchased through the App Store.