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Tiny Heroes Review (iPhone)

Sometimes a truly great game idea can seem to come from nowhere; an idea so inspired you can’t understand how a game designer could think of it. Other times though, a great game idea can be as simple as mashing together two successful ideas to create something new. In the case of Tiny Heroes, its the latter. The brilliantly named Simutronics Corp have created a great idea, and they have done it by blending together equal parts Dungeon Keeper and Plants Vs Zombies. Its a combination that’s so obvious yet so perfectly realised that you will be amazed someone hasn’t done it before. Like the very best of ideas, its something that’s easy to buy into and immediately appealing.

For those unfamiliar with Dungeon Keeper, it was a Peter Molyneux classic where the normal dungeon raiding game mechanic was turned on its head so that you played the evil Dungeon Overlord. You had to design a dungeon complete with monsters and traps that was capable of stopping the heroes from stealing your treasure. Tiny Heroes then takes this concept and combines it with the basic gameplay of Plants Vs Zombies where your enemies must be defeated using a combination of different defences. Instead of Plants though, you have a range of minions, traps and other tools with which to defend your dungeon, and your enemies are not zombies, but knights, archers, thieves and wizards of varying types and strengths. Suffice it to say, the first time your meagre defences are put to the test by an Epic Knight you will realise how challenging this game can be.

Tiny Heroes does a great job of starting slow and teaching you the basics of the game, with new enemy types and new defences introduced in almost every level. In the same way as Popcap’s classic, these new defences all have different uses and become more specialised as the game goes on. While the early levels introduce the basics like crossbows and floor spikes, later defences like springs (which bounce enemies back to the start of your dungeon) and man-eating treasure chests require careful positioning to be useful. Instead of sunshine your currency is mana and you put down mana crystals to get more. The difficulty early on is getting enough mana crystals up to pay for your defences will still having enough crossbows and traps to defeat the early waves. Each level typically ends with a big wave of enemies who crash against your dungeon defences hard and if you don’t have enough layers of traps and turrets you’ll find yourself overwhelmed.

There’s a clever scoring system at play that encourages you to play levels over again to get them perfect. If an enemy gets to your treasure room, you only get two stars, while if they managed to escape out of your dungeon with treasure you get one and losing all of your treasure means game over. This means that you can scrape through with most of your treasure stolen, but its far more satisfying to try and get all 3 stars by preventing any enemies reaching your treasure room at all.

Between the main levels there are challenge dungeons which are optional and often very difficult, but offer unique challenges. These are very much like puzzles and can be very rewarding when you eventually figure them out. As the difficulty level is higher in these sections they highlight the one failing of the game; it can be hard to put your defences in exactly the right spot on the small iPhone screen. This can mean a lot of restarting as in these sections having a trap in the wrong square can make your whole strategy worthless.

The games visuals are cute and functional and the sound effects are good enough if not all of the highest quality. Its the pure compulsion of the gameplay that makes this such an essential purchase though. For anyone who loves Dungeons and Dragon’s there’s a good deal of subtle jokes that gently poke fun at the genre, but its the opportunity it gives the player to create and defend their own dungeon that will make amateur Dungeon Masters happy.

Sometimes just taking two good ideas and combining them can make something great. I love Plants vs Zombies and I love Dungeon Keeper, but the game I really want to play is called Tiny Heroes.

9 Grumbling Gorks out of 10

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