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Tiny Empire in Review – Cute And Challenging

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I’m willing to admit that I loved Angry Birds right along with everyone else when it first came out.  After umpteen sidetracks and licenses, however, I found the sequel to be too little too late.  I still think the general mechanics of the Angry Bird style game work, but I’m tired of being angry.  That’s where Tiny Empire comes in.  You’re still trying to get rid of the bad guys by flinging objects at them, but in this case you simply need to take out the enemy, and not destroy everything in sight.  It’s a simpler approach, but I’ve found my time with Tiny Empire so far much more fulfilling than my outing with the latest avian adventures.  Besides, tiny equals cute, and I like cute.

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In this fantasy based approach to the physics based flinging puzzler you must help a king defend his land against golems, orcs and more.  The thing is, you’ll have to champion this fight on your own, because the rest of the king’s soldiers seem content with doing nothing more than getting in the way of your dangerous cannonballs.  Thankfully with a little skill and some luck you can get around them, though even if you take out one or two in the process of your defense you can still complete a level.  On the other hand, you do have to take out every bad guy on each level, or you basically fail and have to repeat the level over again.  Of course each level has 3 tokens (either stars or diamonds) that you can earn, and while casualties of friendly fire don’t keep you from passing a level, they’ll certainly guarantee that you don’t get your maximum reward.

In typical object flinging fashion, you control your cannon simply by dragging from the cannon to where you want to shoot, adjusting the length and height of your finger for distance and arc.  When the cannon is on the left side of the board this works just fine, but it seems like if the cannon is in the center or worse yet on the right side of the field, your hand tends to block the display as you’re crossing the screen.  I know it technically works the same when going from left to right, but while that feels natural the other configurations seem a bit awkward.

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You start the game with one type of cannonball, but as you progress through the levels you’ll earn a fireball that covers more ground with its damage as well as a cannonball that provides for a more precise shot.  It would be nice if you could choose what order to use your ammunition in, but since you can’t you’ll just have to make the order work to your advantage.  In addition to the different types of ammunition you’ll have two power ups to help you in your quest: shields protect each soldier on the battlefield from one errant shot, while targeting gives you the ability to see exactly where your shot will land for one attempt at a level.  The beauty of these bonuses is that they don’t affect your ability to earn tokens, so it’s definitely to your benefit to take advantage of them to earn 3 tokens on the more difficult levels.

Using each of these bonuses requires gems, but there are several ways to get those.  Naturally you can spend some cash on IAP if you’d like, but you also randomly get gems from certain foes when they die.  Occasionally goblins will pop up on the field, and if you blast them you’ll get 40 gems.  Finally, you’ll uncover gem mines along your route which will earn you some gems every so many hours.  Between all these sources you shouldn’t run out of currency unless you’re constantly buying bonuses.

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In addition to the three tokens on each level, there are several different cannons and helmets to collect either by earning a certain number of tokens or using the gems that you’ve collected.  Unfortunately these “upgrades” are purely aesthetic at this point, but hopefully that will change some time down the road.  There are also 17 achievements to earn via Game Center, though most of them revolve around simply completing the different areas of the game.

Tiny Empire might describe the kingdom, but it also gives you a fair idea of the inhabitants.  They may not really be that tiny, but it just seems that way given the visuals.  But, as I mentioned in the beginning, tiny equals cute, and I like cute.  The character graphics are actually pretty neat, with good designs and decent animations when the characters get struck by the various types of ammunition.  What did disappoint me, however, were the backgrounds.  They felt somewhat simplistic, which was particularly sad given the detail in the world map.  There we see birds flying around, fish swimming in the water and even little animations on the levels that you have as yet to conquer.  The sound effects helped bring the world to life, but I think the game needs more.  The creatures are too quiet unless they are actually the recipients of a cannonball.  The music is decent enough, but the medieval fair tunes are easily forgettable once you stop playing for a while.

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Like most games, Tiny Empire isn’t without its flaws.  But, given that this particular genre seems to be waning in popularity, it’s nice to have an alternative to the ever growing birds regime that’s actually fun to play.  If we’re lucky, maybe this will grow into its own franchise to keep that alternative alive for a while.  Or if nothing else, some extra levels down the road to lengthen this experience would be just fine with me.

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App Summary
Title: Tiny EmpireDeveloper: Mother Gaia Studio
Reviewed Ver:1.1.3Min OS Req: iOS 6.0
Price:$2.99App Size:70.54MB
  • Great alternative to Angry Birds
  • Plenty of levels to conquer
  • Steady supply of in-game currency without IAP
  • Cool pixel characters
  • Fun sound effects
  • Hand can get in the way of the battlefield
  • Can’t choose order of ammo
  • Various collectibles don’t enhance game play
  • Needs more memorable music

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