Developer: bin meng
Price: FREE
Version: 2.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

What’s this? An entire kingdom I can run on my iPhone? Egads! Yeah, I know, but Tiny Kingdom actually does a pretty impressive job of combining more “hardcore” free-to-play elements with an accessible and even casual-friendly approach. I’d even call it a worthwhile gateway game into more sim-heavy freemium titles.

Tiny Kingdom should feel familiar with anyone who’s dabbled in more advanced sim-style free-to-play games. There are a number of buildings to construct and upgrade in order to earn more resources, special hero units to hire and individually level-up, smaller soldier units to train en masse and assign to said heroes, etc. For the uninitiated it’s essentially like a simplified medieval strategy game but with a little more micro management that one might expect and a bit less of a focus on combat. At least initially.

One of the things that always turned me off to more complex free-to-play sims is the visuals. Not to say that they looked “bad,” just that the screen tended to get crowded with tiny buildings very quickly and became confusing to look at. Not so with Tiny Kingdom. The city screen is colorful, all of the structures are called out in an easily identifiable manner, and multiple buildings such as barracks and mines are all clustered together as one. Tapping on the mine will bring up the screen with all the individual mines to manage, but not having every single one represented on the main screen takes a huge load off my eyes. Having a build queue tab is also incredibly nice as it can show players exactly what is being constructed, how much time is left, and how many free construction slots they still have left. All at a glance.

Despite being far more user-friendly than a number of similar titles, Tiny Kingdom still misses a few details. The tutorial is relatively brief, which is nice, but it doesn’t fully explain everything. In fact, almost half of the city’s buildings (the World Mine, City Wall, War of Valor, etc) aren’t explained at all. They can be figured out for the most part but not having even the slightest clue how to utilize them at first can be a bit awkward. A more significant issue is the way information is displayed in the menus. For one thing there’s no unit cap display, so there’s no easy way of knowing how many units a given hero can take on. A lot of it is also purely text and numbers which makes telling exactly what resource might be needed for a given project incredibly hard to figure out at a glance. Plus it’s impersonal.

Tiny Kingdom is still very much a fun and accessible freemium sim. It’s definitely easier to get into than many of its peers, just not quite as much as I’d have hoped. Still, it’s certainly worth a look.

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