Like a five-year-old child to a fairground arcade mechanical claw game, we were compelled to play Grabatron the moment we saw it.
Combining three, no, four of our favourite things – spaceships, big mechanical claws, blowing things up (virtually – we're not monsters) and things with -atron in their name – Grabatron looked promising from the start.
Grab things, cause destruction, don't get shot down. Those are the rules of Grabatron. You pilot an alien spaceship with a big mechanical claw underneath. You can use that claw to scoop up everything and everyone below you.
Points mean prizes, and this game's all about the high score. Its surprisingly big game world has plenty to play with. Picking up an object or person with an arrow above them activates a mission like "abduct eight cows" or "destroy whole army base". There are 30 of these missions to play with.
Grabatron himself seems to enjoy the action, occasionally muttering his own name in a deep robotic voice, or emitting an evil laugh when he particularly approves of a kill.
Tilt controls are the order of the day here, and they're calibrated when you begin so you can pick your favourite playing angle from which to start. That's left-right-up-down taken care of, and the gribber-grabber (as we like to call it) is dropped and raised with a tap of the screen. The most satisfying control of all is when the claw is loaded, you can swipe left or right to fling your victim or projectile off into the distance.
You can also use an onscreen joystick if you don't have the elbow room for tilt control on the train.
It's all great fun and a laugh a minute as you use airborne cattle to knock down buildings, generally splatter people below and cause destruction, but the largely directionless gameplay rubs a bit thin after a while.
Cops, soldiers, helicopters, rednecks and SAMs will all try to take you down, as well as an onslaught of military jets if you get too high. It gets difficult to stay alive as you cover more ground, even as you recharge your health and get extra lives by abducting people and livestock, and smashing buildings.
So it's challenging enough, but just chasing a score gets tiresome, and there are no save points, making it impossible to play in just a spare moment.
Grabatron looks great, plays well and is funny to boot, but in the end it feels almost as futile as the mechanical claw at the fair.
More after the break...
Barn-smashing, cattle-flinging, people-squashing fun, but high-score chasing gets tiresome