Frozen Synapse – Game Design Frozen In Time

2.0 Overall Score
Gameplay: 2.5/5
Design: 2/5
Duration: 2/5

Strategy game with depth | Cross platform multiplayer | Multiple modes

UI not optimized for touch | Hassle to control units | Multiplayer not made for mobile


Frozen Synapse was released two years ago for the PC, and provided turn based tactical combat that has now come to the iPad. The game revolves around players performing their turns at their leisure, and then having those turns played out simultaneously. With that in mind, it sets the stage for online multiplayer that includes cross platform between computer and iPad. There are five different multiplayer modes to engage in, all delivered through a top down interface with neon infused graphics to depict combat action. There’s also a 55 mission single player campaign as well as randomly generated maps across single player and multiplayer.
There’s a whole lot of strategic depth available with different unit types, multiple actions, and intricate maps with ever changing angles of attack. Each turn is set-up to give you five seconds of forward action, and you can preview that action before engaging it. The preview button lets you see if your moves will lead to an attack or pathway to death, and that’s just based on where the current enemies positions are, not taking into account their move. The five second intervals let you change strategy often, and on the fly, and still matches don’t take very long. The entire experience is a lot like Leviathan Warships, and that’s not a good thing.

At first glance, you can tell that the developers just dropped the whole heap of the desktop version on to the iPad, without any refinements for touch. The interface is extremely bloated with virtually no aspects changed to use touch instead of a mouse. There’s also a significant learning curve, and there’s nothing that is intuitive leaving you to watch tutorial videos. The whole game feels archaic, just like Leviathan Warships, and they feel extra stale compared to Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol, which was made for iOS from the ground up. Frozen Synapse was shoehorned on to the iPad, and there is nothing that is made friendly to the user or on the go gaming. Even the multiplayer has a rudimentary interface that isn’t set-up for quick in and out sessions like most other iOS multiplayer games.

Frozen Synapse ($6.99, iPad) is stuck in the past with layers of frustration covering the strategy filled gameplay making it one to strategically avoid. Sadly, the game is frozen in time, and just isn’t made for the iPad era.


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16 Comments on "Frozen Synapse – Game Design Frozen In Time"

  1. niklas May 22, 2013 at 7:19 AM -

    Complete exaggeration of minor problems.This is what happens when casuals get their hands on something more than swipe or touch controls.

  2. AdamLopez May 23, 2013 at 1:06 AM -

    agree Niklas! Tge game is great, the best tactical strategy on iOS! Recommend it.
    Horrible review:/

  3. Kenny May 23, 2013 at 9:39 AM -

    I agree with the review. The gameplay I know of from the desktop version, but the iPad version just isn’t made for the iPad. They didn’t seem to have any effort in making the game for the iPad, which is extremely disappointing.

    I’m enjoying Ace Patrol on the ace difficulty with five times the points.

  4. Goon May 24, 2013 at 6:31 AM -

    Ignore this review. The game is great. Controls are round the edge of the screen – just touch the one you need and of you go. Easy.

  5. Paul June 5, 2013 at 2:50 PM -

    Well, it’s fair to say that about 0% of this reviewers “issues” were apparent to me. No idea what he is on about in all cases. Interface is fine.
    I can only imagine they are a bit thick and only want “pick up and play” games for Ipad as they don’t have the intelligence or attention span for longer play sessions of more complex games. There is no reason WHAT SO EVER that the Ipad shouldn’t have some deep games that require longer play sessions. There are plenty of “shallow as a spit puddle” games out there to suit the mentally and attention span deficient gamers who want them.
    If you want a game you can learn in 5 minutes – pick up and play in 5 minutes….This isn’t it – Thank god – go and choose from the other 145,000 Ipad junk 99p shallow dull games there are out there. This is a more complex game that requires you to invest both your wit and your time. and to my mind THAT’S A GOOD THING!

    • Trevor Sheridan June 5, 2013 at 3:57 PM -

      A poor game is a poor game, and it’s amazing that you have to criticize other games in talking up Frozen Synapse. It’s amazing how the developers of Bastion, GTA III, and The Walking Dead can offer amazing depth, and port the game to actually be made to be touched. I’m sure all games in the App Store are just so casual like Modern Combat 4, Warhammer Quest, Year Walk, Superbrothers, Waking Mars, Ace Patrol, Total War Battles, Dark Meadow, Magika, Fieldrunners, Kingdom Rush, Ravensword: Shadowlands, and more just can’t be made to be mobile, touchable, and accessible gaming. Oh wait, they can. The poorly designed nature of Frozen Synapse is clear when comparing it to any of these titles, and there are so many more to reference. Please don’t try to put down other games, other people, or anything along those lines.

  6. Paul June 10, 2013 at 3:58 PM -

    Must disagree again. I found GTA and MC4 completely unplayable on Ipad. Kingdom rush and Magika are as simple as a free PC flash game. can’t speak for the others as I haven’t played them. frozen Synapse I found intuitive in control and deep in gameplay. still no idea what your problem is, and reciting a list of shallow junk isn’t going to change my mind. Have you ever played a game with any depth? check out my Aurora or Dwarf Fortress channel on Youtube.

    • Trevor Sheridan June 10, 2013 at 10:15 PM -

      The iPad version is disappointing outside of the game itself is my main point, though maybe you should try the others before criticizing them.

  7. Aidan June 19, 2013 at 8:13 AM -

    I found the game easy enough to control, i don’t really see what the problem is and owning it on the PC as well i can make a good comparison.
    It’s more in-depth than most other games on iOS by far.
    Also i want to just point out the line that says “isn’t set-up for quick in and out sessions like most other iOS multiplayer games”
    That’s because its not supposed to be!
    How do you criticize it for not having quick in and out sessions but give it a 2/5 for duration anyway?
    The review doesn’t even mention the story or the detail they have put into the lore of the game or even the setting.
    Honestly, it’s an amazing game with insane depth in both the lore, setting and gameplay. This review is just awful, just ignore it.

    • Trevor Sheridan June 19, 2013 at 8:37 AM -

      Did you ever think that the controls are familiar because you have played the game before? This review isn’t for those that own Frozen Synapse, and obviously bought it as soon as it came to the iPad, it’s for those first time entrants to Frozen Synapse. To your particular points, it’s not set-up for quick online play because it takes five minutes of waiting for the game to load, and going through an archaic menu system. It has nothing to do with the gameplay itself.

  8. Eduardo June 19, 2013 at 1:05 PM -

    You are absolutely right that this game isn’t set up for “on-the-go gaming”. This isn’t a game that you can just pick up and immediately knowing how to play from intuition alone. It is a game that requires you to go through the tutorial first and invest around ten to twenty minutes to learn how to play the game. And that’s a great thing, because not all iPad games are supposed to be simple.
    Yes, the controls take time to learn, just like the first time you play any other type of game, like an RTS or an FPS. I can guarantee you that the first time you played a game of that genre you didn’t just jump right in to a game immediately knowing how to play. All moderately complex games take some time to learn and get adjusted to. And as we all know, this is a very deep strategy game, which has a complex interface even on the PC version. So the fact that your main complaint against the game is that it requires that time investment to learn it, is proof to me that you should stick to reviewing exclusively 99 cents and freemium games, which I’m sure would better appeal to your tastes.
    The claim that the multiplayer isn’t set up for quick gaming is an outright lie. It took me literally seconds to find my first multiplayer match, and only had to tap twice to do it, after the initial registration that the app prompts you with when you launch it for the first time.
    While I agree that the menu interface is unpolished and a tad disorienting at first, it is no way near as big of an issue as you make it out to be. Your review is completely unfair to the game, focusing only on what would be just minor issues to the main target audience of the game, and disregarding all its many merits, such as an astounding soundtrack, a nice storyline and campaign, and a great competitive aspect that gives it ton of replay value.

    • Trevor Sheridan June 19, 2013 at 1:42 PM -

      Why is the reviewer criticized, rather than the review itself. Attacking the person is a bit odd. No matter your personal opinion of the game. We reviewed it based on its merits. The talk of its depth is odd to me, as it’s actually quite simplistic compared to other strategy games, but if you enjoy the game, and disagree with our review that is great. Criticizing the reviewer is not.

  9. Chas June 20, 2013 at 8:58 PM -

    I bought this game yesterday, and I did not know that this game was a port. While I was playing it, the controls felt like they were for to me. Touch to plant a waypoint, drag actions to different waypoints in order to change the time that they take place, add and delete waypoints that you don’t like. It all seemed very intuitive to me. I’ve only played four or five missions in campaign, and one skirmish battle, and I have all of the controls completely mastered.

    Of course, I did spend ten minutes watching the tutorial. So I must have had some kind of unfair advantage.

    Not every game is meant to be played for ten seconds and then put down for a while.

    I dabbled in online play too. Took about a minute to figure it out. Not too shabby.

    Trevor, how did you land this job and who is paying you?

    • Trevor Sheridan June 20, 2013 at 11:24 PM -

      Play Ace Patrol or Xcom, and then tell me how intuitive Frozen Synapse is, and how well it’s made for touch. I’ve played around with Frozen Synapse for about four hours, and waiting for the strategic depth, smooth online connections, and touch based interface. Oh well, to each their own, but this is still a poorly made game in comparison to others out there.

  10. TheCriticCritic February 16, 2014 at 12:25 PM -

    Anyone reading this, don’t listen to this bull crap review. This game is one of the finest strategy titles on the ipad, and the controls are fine. I picked up the game without ever playing the PC version, and I never had a problem. The multiplayer is in fact one of the best multiplayer systems on the platform as well. Not every game is a casual cash grab like Candy Crush that can be played every time that you have five seconds, and if you ask me, that’s a good thing. In fact, the multiplayer is asynchronous, so you actually can take a turn if you have a minute or two. If you like hardcore strategy, this is THE mobile game for you (and xcom of course). Don’t believe me? Read literally anyone else’s review but this guy’s. How does this have a lesser score than DUNGEON KEEPER, of all games? What kind of show do you guys think you’re running? You know what, Trevor, you can keep playing Dungeon Keeper, Clash of Clans, and Candy Crush. I’ll stick with the good games like Frozen Synapse.

  11. icurafu February 17, 2014 at 8:17 PM -

    I LOVE this game on the iPad. The interface works so well…. I actually think it is best on the iPad. I intend to get this game again when it gets released on the Vita.