Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPod touch 4
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David Whatley, creator of the geoDefense series, is back with a new defense game developed with his studio Simutronics. Entitled Tiny Heroes, this game puts players in charge of protecting a dungeon's treasure from heroes who think they can just barge on in and take it. Players lay down one of 35 defenses that range from weapons like ballistas and catapults, traps like spikes and springboard panels, to creatures like Gorks that attack nearby enemies, along with a variety of other, more unconventional defenses. These are unlocked through the game's first two campaigns, which consist of 20 regular levels and 7 optional challenge levels. Not all defenses can be taken into battle, as each level has a maximum number of defenses that can be used, so selecting the correct ones to use is key.
What is interesting about Tiny Heroes is that even the basic defenses introduced early on still have uses later on in the game because there's no kind of traditional upgrade or repair mechanic; once a defense is placed, it stays there until it is destroyed. The game scrolls horizontally, but all the action takes place without any zooming or vertical scrolling, making it much easier to keep track of the action. The game has a great cartoony art style, with the heroes expressing glee when they're carrying treasure out of the dungeon. The game's star system also is very simple, instead of being some nebulous unknown score-based system like some games: if the heroes don't even touch the treasure at all, the player gets 3 stars. If the heroes move the treasure but don't remove it from the dungeon, the player gets 2 stars. If any treasure is lost, then the player only gets 1 star.
It is very easy to hit a wall in Tiny Heroes where the game becomes very difficult, though this is often due to improrper usage of new defenses that are introduced. One of the later levels in the first campaign, entitled "Hold the Line," is a particularly brutal one unless the player plays it in a certain way, or is skilled enough with their strategy to figure it out. Each of the levels works in their own ways, and figuring out how to play them properly is a large part of the game. The Challenge levels are fun diversions, but their difficulty and inability to skip when attempting them (without leaving to the main menu) makes them often just worth skipping when trying to advance through the game.
Tiny Heroes does a lot of things right in the crowded defense genre on iOS; a lot of what makes it good is the subtle gameplay design choices. It's part of what made the geoDefense games so good, and even when working on a much bigger team at Simutronics, a lot of that comes through in Tiny Heroes. There's a lot of content here as well, and more is planned that should hopefully expand on the original material in fun new ways. Fans of defense games and the geoDefense series will enjoy this.
Update: The game has already gotten some content updates, with three new level packs added. Carl's Crazy Funhouse 1 & 2 are collections of levels that explore the wackier side of the game's defenses and mechanics. The Gauntlet is a collection of 10 levels that are described as being "Blistering Hard." These levels are all free downloads from within the app, and the second set of Funhouse levels were recently added without an App Store update, so the game can provide new content regularly without having to go through Apple approval first. This is in addition to the still-upcoming "Workshop" content that will add 27 new levels and 14 new defenses in a future update with an in-app purchase.