App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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Robot Entertainment completely blew everyone's minds when they recently released the universally acclaimed Orcs Must Die! The experience was something both familiar and totally new, with the developer's own special brand of style rounding the package out nicely. Sure they'd made a couple of games before that, but this is the one that really made them a household name. And oh look at that, they've gone and done it again.
In Hero Academy, two players (always and forever as there's no single player option) duel for supremacy in what would best be described as a lighthearted fantasy equivalent to military war games. Each team has two crystals to defend, and the match is finished once either side loses both or runs out of troops to deploy. Each turn allows for five actions with which players can summon units, equip special stat-boosting gear, move, attack and so on. Six units/items are randomly doled out from a limited pool at the start of the match with new ones being tossed in to replace any that have been used. It's very much like a card game in that respect. However luck of the draw is just a small part of it. The real strategy lies in knowing a unit's strengths and weaknesses, using them effectively, and incorporating tactics that help control the other player's movements.
I do love the visuals, the cartoony style, the way buffing items change a unit's physical appearance and so on, but the thing is what I really love about Hero Academy is just how fun and accessible it is. Each player takes their turn when they're ready, so matches can take minutes, hours, days or even weeks to complete. Several games can be run at the same time. Meanwhile, never knowing an opponent's "hand" or their plans keeps every game tense even if victory seems assured.
But as much as I'm totally infatuated with Hero Academy, I've hit a couple of snags along the way. Not having a playable tutorial, thus having to tough it out and play a few games with no experience, is kind of rough. I'm also not too big a fan of having to pay to unlock pretty much everything (new teams, new avatars, new team colors, etc...). Not that it's required or anything, but it's still a shame.
In-app purchase detractors should understand, absolutely no real money has to be used to enjoy Hero Academy and paying for content will not give anyone a decided edge save not having to stare at ads every time a turn is submitted. Not even if they use the Dark Elves. Even those corpse-raising munchkins can be beaten with enough planning. With that in mind, I urge everyone to check it out. It's a ridiculous amount of fun. And feel free to challenge me (user name: Robstein) any time.