So while I was looking for the name of that Final Fantasy themed grid defense game, Vanguard Storm, I came across a strange bit of info. Turns out that Square released a trio of games for the iPhone in the last few weeks. I certainly hadn't heard anything at that point, so I decided to try them out. Granted, I did not want to actually pay the $22 dollars for all three, so lucky for me, there were lite versions of all three.
First on the docket was Sliding Heroes. This game is just bizarre. I suppose that it could be classed as an action strategy game. Every board has a spawn point for your characters, several enemies, a couple of walls, and possibly a goal. At least in the demo, your goal is either to destroy all the enemies, get to the goal, or both. You accomplish this by spawning your herd of up to eight characters, each of one of four classes, and tilting the iPhone to slide them around.
There are a few problems with this. First is that the controls just don't really work. O sure, they work in that your herd slides in the direction that you tilt your device, but they all move at the same time. this means that there is no good way to split up your group or to bring them back together or to control them in a direct way at all. I guess all of that becomes a non-issue though, since the four classes don't do anything to really differentiate themselves. Sure, the game tells me there are two ranged classes, the mage and the lancer, and that the melee classes, the warrior and the cleric, have higher hp, but I didn't really see the practical effects of this even when I used the characters one at a time. The only real way to play is to spawn as many guys as you can and bum rush. Whatever, if the demo is any indication, then this game is garbage. It also costs $5.
Quite the auspicious start for this trio, eh? The second game, Hills and Rivers, is also what I would describe as an action strategy game but is completely different. The board in this game is populated by several little castles, about two dozen in the single stage demo, that are connected by roads. Both you and your opponent start off controlling a hand full of castles with the remaining castles being unclaimed. Each castle has a number associated with it that represents the current manpower on hand. You can send any number of men, save one, from a castle that you control to any adjacent castle. If you control that adjacent castle, it simply adds those men to the existing number, but if you don't control it, there is a clash and whom ever has the higher number wins control of the castle. You and your opponent move simultaneously and it takes several seconds for your men to move from one castle to another. There is a timer that is constantly running, and every few seconds more men spawn on your base castle which can be reassigned at any time. First player to controls all of the castles wins.
This was actually quite fun. The turns move along at a quick clip and you only see part of the board at any one time, lending it a rather frantic pace as you constantly shift your view. There are a few wrinkles even in the first match that keeps things interesting, such as the horse ranch spaces that make your men move faster if you control it and the items that grant bonuses to offense and defense for a short time. If they continued to pile on the mechanics like that I could see it getting really interesting. There is also a bit of a story going on, but the dialogue is very pretentious and who knows if the story would be any good from what little is said in this demo. The full game costs $7, which doesn't seem unreasonable for what you would be getting, but definitely puts it out of my personal impulse range. I would have to hear really good things about it once people actually realize it exists for me to pony up the dough.
The third game is actually a re-release of an existing iPod game. You may recall that when that app store was shiny and new about a year and a half ago, Square released an original iPod game by the name of Song Summoner. All reports were that it was a decent strategy rpg, but no one really took notice because, hey, you couldn't play it on anything real. Well, Square has now put it out on iPhone as Song Summoner: The Unsung Heroes Encore. I suppose this is some sort of enhanced port, but there is no way for me to know since I never played the original.
This is a strategy rpg that plays pretty much like any other. You take turns moving your party of 1 to 6 units around a gridded battle field and kill baddies. With A spell here and an item there, battles play out pretty standard like. The hook is that your party is comprised of tune troops that are made from the songs on your iPod. I'm not sure how they are generated, but I can say that it isn't random. Selecting the same song produces the same troop, so if you find one you like you can build a whole army of them. The game looks surprisingly deep, with a class based structure and several different ways to customize and power-up your troops. The story is also pretty wild, with lots of musical references and just plain wacky characters, so that bit looks to be at least entertaining. The only real drawback is that this game cast $10. That pushes it well out of impulse buy land and into deep research-ville, which is not a place that I like to have my iPhone games live. If it lives up to what I saw in the demo though, I would totally buy this. Once I see some positive reviews, I will totally purchase this.
In the mean time... O look... Pac-Man Championship Edition... I have a feeling this will end badly...
Sliding Heroes Lite
Hills and Rivers Remains Lite
Hills and Rivers Remains
Song Summoner Lite