Dec 13

Tiny Armies Review

Smartwatches are in a unique situation. As something we used to keep on us at all times, from pocketwatches to wristwatches, the need to have time at the ready became a redundancy with the rise of the cellular phone. With most people reaching for their smartphone to check the time instead of their wrist, they wind up keeping that phone out to do other things. The smartwatch is the way checking the time will return to our wrist, and the need to keep people checking has not gone unnoticed.

Gaming on smartphones is popular, so it was only a matter of time that the smartwatch followed suit. But how should a game play for such a platform? Where someone might just want to spend a couple minutes or even less, instant gratification and replay value are crucial. Tiny Armies offers both of these qualities.

At just .99 on the App Store, Tiny Armies gets right to the point before you can even play it. No free-to-play with in-app purchases. Pay a buck – play the game. That said, if you want me to review the game in similar fashion – buy the game. Tiny Armies should be standard issue for all Apple Watch owners. Command your four blue troops all at once with a swipe of your finger. Swipe up, down, left, or right, and all available troops will blindly follow your lead regardless of what stands in their way. Your enemy is four red troops, who will do the same. Move into your enemy’s place to take them out. To claim victory, you simply need to be the only one on the stage with at least one troop remaining. Now if you want a detailed assessment, confine with the article.

Tiny Armies attempts to mirror the gaming experience played on Apple Watch on its native iPhone app. The concept is simple, so what works on Apple Watch should work well on iPhone. This is not only true, but exceedingly so. I will review both versions of the game.

Apple Watch
This is the platform for which Tiny Armies was made.

Short bursts of randomized gameplay and light strategy that uses just enough thought make Tiny Armies a fun distraction and not a waste of time. The app loads quickly, and it has appropriate replay value. Tiny Armies contains four difficulties with seven stages within each, Skirmish mode that is basically a survival mode with fog of war (all tiles are veiled until), and Versus mode. Yes, you can play an Apple Watch game in local multiplayer mode. The difficulties aren’t necessary, but add value to the game. Rather than advancing through a linear string of levels increasing in difficulty, the difficulties isolate the terrain features to fragment the experience in a way that works better for the smartwatch experience. Along with the choice of difficulty, you can use the digital crown to choose from completed stages within each stage. Stages are randomized to the extent of the terrain within the difficulty chosen. Jumping into a game happens quickly from the moment you start the app.

This is where the developer had some fun that they otherwise couldn’t have on Apple Watch.

While fitting on the smaller platform, four-on-four troop battles will feel diminutive on the iPhone. Go to this version of the game five-on-five and greater. Things start feeling hectic when more is happening at once. In this version, the levels advance in a linear progression, and also allow the player to restart the stage. Though not necessary with fewer troops, restarting is a good feature when the outcome resulted in a frustrating situation.

These aren’t designed stages with AI that act accordingly, and that might turn off some players. The stages are random, with the terrain depending on the difficulty on Apple Watch and how far you’ve progressed on iPhone. The AI puts in the appropriate amount of effort to counter it, however. There isn’t a serious turn-based strategy game, and the terms for victory isn’t much of a tactical victory – you win so long as you take out your opponent while remaining on the battlefield no matter your cost. I’d say you wouldn’t have much reason to come back once you played through all of the levels, but the levels are randomly generated so you won’t encounter the same stage twice. The developer has been great so far about updating to include new content. This in mind, I would suggest something to improve. The versus mode added to the game is fun, but should be updated to show the player whose turn it is, possibly with that player’s side of the border in their color. I played the iPhone game against my wife, and she had no way of knowing that she went second or that it was her turn aside from me telling her. Knowing that blue always goes first and knowing whose turn it is does prevent this, but it would be a nice touch.

Versus mode uses fog of war, so players start on equal terms.

Versus mode in both versions uses fog of war, so players start on equal terms.

Tiny Armies places an effortless punch right on the button that delivers a knockout. It feels so simple but in that good way that it just makes sense and doesn’t need anything more. Matches happen fast and you’ll want to play again immediately afterward. I highly recommend this game even for those who scoff at the thought of playing a game on their smartwatch. Tiny Armies plays smoothly on Apple Watch, and the native app also offers a slight variation of the game to make it worth starting for a quick session on either platform. If you have an Apple Watch, get Tiny Armies. If you know someone with an Apple Watch, gift it to them. It’s an assured victory.

The Zarf logo review score best

Five out of Five
Reviewed on Apple Watch and iPhone on 13DEC16.