Developer: Planet H
Price: $2.99
Version Reviewed: 1.1.3
App Reviewed on: iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
User Interface Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★☆☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★½☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

The founders and explorers of this great nation of ours were certainly amazing folk. From the native tribes who have always called America home, to the settlers who came here in the youth of our country’s history, the eras of America’s history are fascinating glimpses into our shared story. Frontier Heroes aspires to bring us little tidbits of that history, delivered with a quirky aesthetic and through a short series of increasingly difficult mini-games.

Also you get to wrestle a bear!

IMG_0699Frontier Heroes divides modern American history into six eras. Players will start in the Early America era of the 1600s, and will progressively unlock the Colonies, American Revolution, Frontier, and Gold Rush eras, until finally unlocking the Land of the Free era, which represents modern day. Each era is host to several mini-games themed on that time period – Early America sees players grinding corn and practicing archery, while the Gold Rush era features the obligatory mining and panning for gold mini-games.

Did I mention there was one where you get to wrestle a bear?

IMG_0701Each game has several challenges that one must surpass to unlock future eras. Also necessary for advancing are “D.Y.K.” collectables that appear in each game: grabbing one of these sometimes obvious, sometimes well-hidden icons will not only help you progress, but will also provide an interesting little factoid about American history.

The aesthetics of are great, with top-notch animation and fun, often hilarious character designs. The music is also very nice and varies to match the era in which you are playing. From the fiddles of the Colonies to the banjos of the Frontier, this game is great to listen to.

IMG_0700Unfortunately, the downside to Frontier Heroes undermines its greatest value. As a delivery vehicle for some light American history lessons, it could have been a great teaching tool for young gamers. However, some of the mini-games are frustratingly difficult and virtually none of them merit repeated playthroughs (except perhaps the bear-wrestling thing, but that may just be me). The gated content means that players young and old will also be unable to freely explore eras of history without mastering these sometimes un-engaging games. And with only four or five mini-games per era, it’s only the difficulty that keeps this whole game from being a single-serving experience. If the aim was to make learning fun (a challenging, if noble goal) then Frontier Heroes missed out on the chance to do so, but only by a few degrees.

Frontier Heroes isn’t a bad game. The visuals and music are excellent, and the animation is top-notch. But there isn’t quite enough game here to keep older gamers engaged, nor is the game particularly accessible for younger players. As soon as I started playing I knew that I wanted so very much to love Frontier Heroes, but in the end the gameplay just didn’t quite meet the high standards set by its own presentation.

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