Version Reviewed: 1.2
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 5
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Tree Wars isn't like other strategy games. For instance, there's no grid-based layout and the visuals are attractively stylish and artistic. Perhaps more importantly, it's a much more challenging game than most titles within the genre. Something that ensures that the 10 level length doesn't seem so brief after all.
Players command a squadron of squirrel troops as they trace on evil beavers with a variety of different weaponry. It's all a little bit like Watership Down, but with different animals fighting it out. On one side of the screen is the squirrel base, while the beaver base (or bases in some cases) is located on the other side. A steady flurry of enemies come marching across the land, requiring one to recruit squirrels as quickly as possible.
A selection of timer bars dictate when a new squirrel can be brought into battle. Some stages might only initially offer one type of fighter, while others might provide a couple to start out with. In each case, it's possible to unlock new units or magic spells by spending acorns. These acorns are gained by defeating beavers, and can also be used to upgrade existing units. It's all a simple enough concept and works reasonably well.
While the units work by themselves, magic such as a fireball or healing spell are used through the player's finger dragging a cursor to where they want to cast. Plenty goes on throughout each stage too, requiring players to keep a close eye on what's happening and to keep unleashing new troops at the right time. Further interaction stems from the multiple paths that can be taken in some stages, requiring one to manipulate an arrow to dictate the direction that the troops take.
A busy game, Tree Wars is also quite challenging. There's a particular difficulty spike on level 4 with the subsequent level seeming a touch easier to complete. Occasionally it also feels a little unbalanced; with waves of huge beavers sometimes easily overwhelming one's forces, no matter what's tried. Such a difficulty spike encourages one to complete earlier stages on harder difficulty levels, thereby gaining a gem that can be used for a more significant upgrade. That's also where the replayability of Tree Wars is most prominent with those meagre sounding 10 levels, expanding to 30 through the difficulty modes available. It's possible to use acorns gained from completing a stage to buy special, more powerful attacks, but don't expect this to make things hugely easier. It's just a convenient bonus along the way.
Tree Wars isn't as casual as one would expect from the surface, so those 10 levels will last players quite a while. At times it might seem a little infuriating - certainly for those used to much easier titles in the genre and when confronted with surprising spikes - but such challenge is also often to its benefit, offering something a little different to the rest.