'Sliding Heroes' (iPhone)
Also available on: N/A
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Release date: September 16, 2009
There's more to Square Enix that countless Final Fantasy sequels, at least when it comes to the iPhone. Having already made something of a name for itself in the casual strategy field with Crystal Defenders and Vanguard Storm, the Japanese studio is looking to extend its influence on the App Store with its latest offering Sliding Heroes. It's a far cry from what we've come to expect from the developer, but this amalgamation of puzzle and tower defence is certain to go down a storm with segments of the Apple fraternity.
With an army comprising mages, warriors, lancers and clerics at your disposal, you might be forgiven for mistaking this as one of Square's RPGs, but classes is where the similarity ends. Sliding Heroes plays like the offspring of Monkey Ball and Crystal Defenders. As the name suggests, there's a lot of sliding involved when it comes to controlling units, but battles require strategic prowess as well as deft fingertips.
The aforementioned classes all have their strengths and weaknesses. For instance, warriors are useful in close combat, while fireball-conjuring mages have range on their side. Clerics are adept at sending the undead back to hell but can't withstand much punishment. There are 130 stages to contend with and besting them is entirely dependent on recruiting a balanced army made up of these units.
Early missions are all about slaying monsters. You can send up to eight units into battle at any given time, but some stages limit you to less than this. Success or failure is also down to the combination of classes you send out. For example, a stage swarming with flying monsters will requires you to recruit mages to blast them out of the sky, while a level full of zombies has you calling upon clerics. Defeating enemies increases your life force, which in turn allows you to send more heroes into battle. The more monsters you slay with any given class, the more experience that group collectively gains. After the initial enemy felling rounds are through, the game ups the ante, pitting you against escort missions. Not only do these require you to clear the screen of monsters, you must also guide a princess safely to the exit.
Units are controlled through tilts of the handset. This feels cumbersome at first as precision is quite tricky. The strategy in most missions is to hold a certain character class back while another exploits a particular enemy's weakness. This can be extremely difficult given that certain units slide faster than others, and the only way of holding your troops back is to herd them into a corner or snag them on a piece of scenery. For a game controlled entirely using tips and tilts, Sliding Heroes’ learning curve is steep. Although perseverance is rewarded with a well-rounded strategy experience, its initial difficulty may alienate the casual crowd, which appears to be its target audience.
In addition to the mission-based game type, there's also an endless mode of play, which pits you against an ongoing wave of monsters. Not only is this very useful for honing your skills, it's apt for anyone looking for an ephemeral game, ideal for killing time on a bus journey or in a waiting room.
The game is thoroughly well presented, with colourful environments and detailed monsters rendered in an unusual block art style. Friendly units resemble pint-sized Russian dolls, but they are functional within the maze environments. There can be no complaints on the sonic front either, the sound effects take a backseat but the music is well composed.
Sliding Heroes is simple, challenging and innovative. It's good to see a fresh approach on what is becoming a tired genre, but the audience that Square is trying to lure with this one may be somewhat niche. It's difficult to imagine the casual crowd investing the kind of hours required to master it, while the more serious gamer might be after something with a little more substance. But at £2.99, we’d recommend this to anyone.
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Copyright: Square Enix