Tiny Token Empires Review (PS3)
Sometimes the best things in life are made by squashing two things together. Lemon and lime. Porridge and chocolate spread. Simon and Garfunkel. Pinky and The Brain. They just work. More than a few developers these days have been taking a similar approach to game design. Case in point: the vast number of games trying to shoehorn RPG mechanics into… anything really. Sometimes these attempts at mad science work, Clash of Heroes says “hai!” as a fairly relevant case here. Even some that shouldn’t, just do. Who’d have thought that a squad based RTS with RPG mechanics could be packaged as a child friendly football sim and be a joy to behold until Inazuma Eleven! showed face?
So, with that in mind let’s scene set a little: imagine the sheer strategy and tactics that are required for Risk and Civilisation, building up your territories into capital cities and fending off others looking to do the same, with random events to defend against, monsters to slay and bounty to feast upon as a delicious but naughty treat. One of your armies, a general with his hard hitting foot soldier, swift cavalry and healing mystic for when the going gets tough (and that song gets stuck in your head), is planted next to one of said monsters’ lairs and you decide that you can’t be having that.
Also bounty is involved. This is critical.
So your army rolls on in to do battle and your battlefield is… Kinda like Bejeweled? That’s what Tiny Token Empires runs with. And it works magically. You have the standard match 3 set-up, with each colour representing a different unit (red for soldiers, purple for ranged, and so on). There’s no time limit, so you can take as long as you need to fill up the power meter for each character. BUT, the enemy is in the same position as you, vying for the same power ups for their own army. It adds an extra layer of strategy to THE game. Do you try power up your own units or block your enemy’s attack? Similarly, do you chance striking with one unit or build up the rest of your army in the hope that you’ll not get hit in between. They also play about with it for different events. Looting requires you to match up a certain number of padlocks within a time limit while avoiding monster combinations, and surprise raids (or drunken parties) can be resolved by hitting a required number of coloured chains.
The overworld is a bit more like Risk and Civilisation, so if you’ve played either you’ll know what to expect. You shift your units into different territories, with different signs indicating different things, like barbarian villages, monsters or if you can build towns there. Towns need to go through a few upgrades before you can start producing additional buildings and develop more troop types, and can be bolstered with walls too.
Tiny Token Empire’s main stumbling block is its interface. The first chapter of the campaign mode works as an effective tutorial to get your head around the basics, but going through walls of really small text is a chore. Similarly all of the actions are in tiny letters at the bottom corner of the screen as well. And you’ll want to read what they say as the control scheme isn’t the most intuitive thing in the world. If you want to use the D-pad to do anything, then TOUGH! If you accidentally skip your turn, then TOUGH! Similarly, if you choose to run from battle they you’re going lose your entire army, irrespective of size or health, which seems a bit harsh. The game is hardly “easy” (especially if you accidentally meander into a monster lair on your first turn), so one could call this a bit of an issue.
And for something that doesn’t seem to have much going on, the game has a fair number of performance issues, and feels quite sluggish while menu diving or going between battles. Even the splash screen’s a bit slow with some fairly basic models on it, and that’s usually a big warning sign. In game it’s not too bad, with most of the art revolving around some pretty and vibrant 2D art. Sound wise there’s not much to write home about. The music’s okay, and the sound effects are pretty rudimentary but they get the job done.
There’s also a skirmish mode works as you expect, although having a bit more in terms of map choice would have been nice. The lack of level choice and harsh decisions make Tiny Token Empires seem a bit more board game-esque, but even Risk: Factions provided multiple areas to play on so that comparison is a bit jarring as well. Thankfully the option for local multiplayer exists here too, as everyone knows the most enjoyable part about board games is the expletives friends shout at you when you bat them about.
Ultimately, for all the things it gets right on the gameplay side, it’s let down on what would seem to be the fundamentals. If you like board games or strategy games and want something a little different to try then Tiny Token Empires should scratch that itch, but it might take a bit of getting used to. A little more polish and refinement and the game would have been as good as gold, but instead sometimes feels like you’re trying to crack a coconut.Tiny Token Empires Review (PS3),