iOS Quick Hits: For fans of things tactile and tactical

January 30, 2012

In this installment, we out-maneuver our friends in Hero Academy, out-maneuver the AI in Time of Heroes and out-plumb the destructive tendencies of alligators in Where’s My Water.

Hero Academy: Some of the best iOS experiences come when traditional game developers turn their attention to the platform. Robot Entertainment, creators of Orcs Must Die!, tried their hand at mobile development with Hero Academy, a freemium small-board strategy game that pits you against your friends.

Here’s how it works: you have a deck of units and items, and each turn you have 5 actions. You can move and attack with units, place new ones on the board and equip them with items and spells, all in an effort to destroy your opponent’s two crystals before your own are taken down. There’s no campaign here, just versus play with friends or random opponents, so at times it can be harsh to be thrown in against a veteran with no preparation.

The free-to-play part isn’t so bad: you start with access to one army and can pay to get others, but each is balanced and buying one other faction removes the game’s ads. Ultimately, it’s fun, but you have to have the right group of friends to embrace it.  3/5 – Graham Russell

Time of Heroes: Turn-based strategy has found a bit of a resurgence on the iOS platform, which makes sense: not only does the touch interface make so much sense for it, but the ability to play in increments fits with the mobile experience. Time of Heroes is equal parts Fire Emblem and Battle for Wesnoth, with players moving units around an area and taking on foes in randomly-determined battles with outcome based on stats, type and terrain.

The game has two things going for it. First, hero units land on the board with subordinate troops that fall when he does and are strong when close, making staying in formation crucial. Second, hero units level up, gaining strength and letting you choose hero or troop boosts from a many-branched skill tree. It’s not all great news, though, as the interface is a bit less than intuitive, units’ differences seem small and arbitrary for a long time and the story leaves a lot to be desired. The bottom line? Time of Heroes is one for those who like to really get into games, not the pick-up-and-play crowd. 4/5 – Graham Russell

Where’s My Water: Where’s My Water is a new physics puzzle game from Disney that features the one and only Swampy the Alligator. Swampy loves taking a long shower at the end of the day, but he can’t because the other alligators have damaged his plumbing. It’s your job to divert the clean water in each level back to Swampy’s pipe so he can take his shower.

Each level features various obstacles that you must navigate in order to get the water back to Swampy’s pipe. Along the way you’ll also attempt to collect the 3 rubber duckies in each level by running water over them, which allows you to unlocked additional chapters and levels. To guide the water, simply use your finger to carve holes in the sand and the water will flow according to gravity.

With seven themed chapters and over 140 levels, Where’s My Water is a fun little puzzle game that will keep you engaged and playing for quite a while. Unlike the multitude of physics games that follow similar formulas that you’ve already seen, Where’s My Water is a new type of game that still makes use of physics to complete each level. At 99 cents, it’s a very polished title with lots of depth. An additional story, featuring Cranky the Alligator and his penchant for non-veggie food, is available as an in app-purchase, taking Where’s My Water to over 200 total levels with more on the way. This is definitely one you’ll want to check out. Disney has a free version so you can try before you buy, with more than 20 levels not available in the paid version as a bonus. 4/5 – Chris Rasco