Pacific Rim for iOS: Battle giant monsters with a giant robot and go poor in the process

Guillermo Del Toro's new action movie blockbuster Pacific Rim raked in millions during its opening weekend, and it's shaping up to be one of the summer's big tentpole movies. The movie, set in the near future, describes an Earth devastated by giant monsters. Mankind's only defense are a few remaining giant robots controlled by pairs of human pilots who work in tandem to control them. Now there's an iOS game based on the movie available for download. Is it worth the price?

The game follows the plot of the movie, more or less. You've been recruited to pilot a Jaeger - a robot that's hundreds of feet tall, created for the sole purpose of defending humanity against attacks from giant monsters - kaiju, as they're known in the movie (Japanese for "giant monster") - that have emerged through a dimensional rift located on the floor of the Pacific ocean. These kaiju seem focused on destroying whatever they see, but when they see you, well, killing you is all they're interested in.

Robots vs Kaiju

One-on-one combat is the focus of gameplay, and unfortunately, this is where Pacific Rim (the game) started to lose me. If you've ever played Infinity Blade, you've played this game - only better. Hand-to-hand/paw/claw/tentacle combat in Pacific Blade is little more than swiping in various directions and tapping furiously on the screen to activate special weapons.

Pacific Rim battles

What's more, you don't get the same enormous sense of scale playing Pacific Rim that you do watching it. In the adept hands of Guillermo Del Toro, the movie really gives you the idea that these machines and monsters are enormous. They move with the mass you'd expect - awe-inspiring mountains of destructive energy that tear cities apart in their wake. None of that is apparent in the Pacific Rim game. It's just robot-on-monster combat that could just as easily be "Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots" as it is Pacific Rim.

If Pacific Rim were just a ripoff of Infinity Blade, that'd be one thing, but the controls suck. I could barely ever get the "dodge" and "parry" moves to work the way they're described in the game's tutorial, for example, which meant taking constant damage from monsters and inflicting considerably less damage than I should have.

Missions - and you'll play more than 30 of them - are increasingly difficult and increasingly repetitive. Once you've defeated your first kaiju, you've pretty much done what you're going to, minus installing specialized weapons and upgrading to new Jaegers, many of which you see in the movie. The Pacific Rim game's worst sin is that it's just boring.

Pacific Rim screens

Pacific Rim developers have built in an upgrade system that's one of the most brutal I've seen for a game that costs you $5 to play to begin with. You're rewarded for how effectively and quickly you take down monsters with currency, which you can use to repair your Jaeger and upgrade its weapon systems, eventually unlocking new Jaegers. But you'll hit the wall fast, and realize that the only way of getting decent kit upgrades is to either grind like hell, playing constantly, or pay up.


At the risk of sounding like I'm completely defecating on this game, the robot and monster graphics are pretty good and the music is all right, too.

That's what's called "damning with faint praise."

The good

  • Acceptable graphics
  • Simple game mechanics
  • Easy to waste a lot of money on, if you're really stupid and don't care about money

The bad

  • Cheap imitation of much better games
  • Wretched controls
  • Expensive In App Purchases almost required to win
  • No real sense of "giant" combat - just guys in suits, and Godzilla this ain't
  • Boring

The Bottom Line

Skip it. Pacific Rim was clearly rushed out the door to meet the movie release schedule. It's horribly derivative of other games and not much fun to play, unless you feel like using a horribly unfair In App Purchase system that's designed to drain your wallet faster than the Pacific Ocean would drain into a huge dimensional rift in its bottom.

Peter Cohen