prophour.pngProphour23 looks opaque at first. Its theme is a bit abstract. As a quick example, the game starts you off with a heart and four random organs like muscles and stomachs that can be turned into screams and lungs, respectively. Players who jump into the game without going first to the tutorial are pretty much guaranteed to be lost. But behind the strange facade is brilliant game complete with the sort of resource management and unit (organ) trees that RTS players love. Prophour23 was designed to be played from start to finish, if you're good enough to reach the end, in under 15 minutes of challenging and intense gameplay.

The player's goal is to protect the immovable heart in the center of the screen from waves of bugs, day and night. To do so, they must collect blood and use it to create new organs that serve various functions. Blood is a lot like sun in Plants vs. Zombies, generated regularly no matter what organs you've placed but generated faster if one or more stomachs are present. But stomachs, like most of the other organs, require a second resource to function: muscle power. So the player needs muscles as well.

Other organs such as bones, screams, lungs, and hands have their own abilities, but all organs (save the heart, which is used to spawn basic organs) need to be used in combinations to function. Everything except the heart can be moved around, but a pair of connected organs must have unobstructed space between them for a vein to lay in a straight line. The player is given total freedom about what organs to create and where to place them, which creates an infinite array of possible strategies. It also gives the player an adaptability which is necessary for dealing with curveballs the game throws at them in forms such as special, extra-evil bugs or temporary organ failures.

Although I strongly recommend that players check out the tutorial before playing, I wouldn't say that Prophour23's interface is bad. Rather, the interface is just not what seasoned RTS players are used to. The player upgrades an organ by double clicking it and choosing an organ upgrade from the menu that appears. Each upgrade has a cost in blood and if they don't have enough blood for a given upgrade then it's grayed out. There is one thing I wish the interface had, which is basic tooltips to remind the player what everything does, but since there aren't too many organs to choose from, it can be memorized fairly easily. It seems that the interface was designed with touchscreens in mind, though the developer has given no indication that a mobile version is in the works. The game has no keyboard controls.

Fans of RTS games, and perhaps tower defense games as well, are likely to enjoy this game. Although the interface takes a bit of getting used to, the underlying strategy is familiar and the game seems really well balanced. The pace and difficulty ramp up quickly after giving the player some time to get started, and since the game is short and can't be saved... it's a kind of permadeath RTS. People interested in games that break the mold are also likely to find Prophour23 up their alley. It's available for Windows, Mac, and Linux directly from the developer or via Steam.