The iPhone platform has been welcoming gaming genres popularised in other platforms. The strategy department was among the first to make the iPhone a gaming platform with titles based on franchises, ports and games inspired in Flash games. Spanish developer Small Wonders makes justice to its name to release a "Defend the Castle" game with a new twist.
Battle of Puppets [iTunes Link] is an strategy micromanagement game based on the popular Defend the Castle mechanics. Two players at each side of the screen fighting for the enemy's territory. In this case, the battle is based on theatres and your soldiers are puppets.
In homage to Dune, you can create units and plan production with a queuing system. You can upgrade buildings to be able to build more advanced (and dangerous) puppets. There isa basic credit system that will limit your income if you don't kill enemy troops.
In addition to the unusual game setting, the armies are themed with opera names. As you hear it. Carmen will be formed by Spanish bullfighters, while Aida will include Egyptian god Anubis the sphinx. Salome is a Roman legion with a catapult, Valkiria is formed by Vikings and Madama Butterfly a Japanese army with ninjas and shogun. The format gives more variety to the game and expands its replay value. All troop types are different and the player will need to adapt the strategies that suit them most.
As a puppeteer, you can also influence the course of the battle using magic, in the game called professions. Double tapping will bring some sparks to the area that indicate that you need to input a gesture to perform the trick. This of Pocket God with StarWars Unleashed gestures.
The gameplay is as it promises. Simple and straight forward. A couple of handy tips: There is no need to scroll on the game screen (as in Trenches), the bottom menubar acts as a scrollbar, saving you loads of swiping. This is crucial to get back to your home base fast to control your production.
Flags can be upgraded to small structures that allow you to produce basic units. Use them wisely and protect them from the enemy. These constructions can be repaired and are a good cover for basic puppet warriors against projectiles.
In the graphic department, the game boasts of style and personality with great design, textures used and animation. The game theme is supported in a fair way by the illustration in the game. Characters, menus, introduction vide, backgrounds,... They are all spot on.
For such a theatrical game I was disappointed to see no opera music during the battles. While being adequate and with some classic music touches in the menus, I would expect that every army would embrace their opera. I don't know, it would just make sense.
Battle of Puppets is a truly an indie hidden gem that will satisfy those who look for refinement, casual fun and strategy games junkies. While not being groundbreaking in the gameplay, Battle of Puppets is a surreal well thought game that prove once again that simple concepts with refinement and eye candy work very well on the iPhone platform.
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