Crazy Penguin Wars: Tiny Duels (iOS) review
Crazy Penguin Wars: Tiny Duels is a new iOS game from Digital Chocolate, and a simplified form of the company’s popular Facebook game Crazy Penguin Wars, which we reviewed here. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, and carries additional in-app purchases.
Much like its Facebook-based predecessor, Crazy Penguin Wars: Tiny Duels (hereafter Tiny Duels) is a social take on the format popularized by Team 17’s Worms series, in that it is a physics-based combat game in which players use a variety of heavy weaponry in an attempt to inflict as much destruction on their opponent as possible. Unlike the Facebook version, which allowed competition between up to four players at once, the new mobile version is a strictly one-on-one affair, and is designed for asynchronous rather than live multiplayer action.
To battle against an opponent, the player must take control of their penguin, move them around and use various weapons to attack. Movement is handled via some simple on-screen left and right arrows. Penguins are affected by physics, so if they stop movement on a steep slope, they will slide back down again. Jumping may be accomplished by tapping and holding on a special “handle” that appears beneath the penguin, then pulling it back and releasing it similar to flicking a rubber band — or firing a bird in Angry Birds. Range of movement and jumping is limited by an energy bar at the bottom of the screen — when this is depleted, the penguin may not move any further that turn, and the player must ensure they leave enough energy to fire if they would like to attack, too.
Attacking is accomplished by selecting a weapon from the inventory and then using another handle similar to that used for jumping to set the power and trajectory. An on-screen trajectory bar depicts where the shot is likely to go, but this does not take into account any obstacles that might be in the way. Certain objects in the level are affected by physics, so a wayward (or intentional) shot can cause them to collapse, drastically altering the geometry of the level and how easy it is to get a shot to your opponent.
The game monetizes through the use of its two currencies, the former of which is used to purchase ammunition for the player’s unlocked weapons, and the latter of which is used to actually unlock the weapons. Like its Facebook counterpart, Tiny Duels’ approach to weapon management skates perilously close to a “pay to win” scenario, whereby whoever has sunk the most money into the game will have unlocked the most effective weapons. This is absolutely counter to the way Team 17’s Worms series works, in which player skill and strategic ability, not who has the most weaponry, tends to determine the victor. The Worms series also allows players control of more than one unit, which allows for more flexible tactical options. This also means that levels in Worms tend to be more complex and interesting, whereas Tiny Duels’ levels are, for the most part, rather simplistic in order to get the two players throwing things at each other as quickly as possible.
Tiny Duels isn’t a bad game and it is certainly immaculately presented with excellent animation and quirky, catchy ’60s-style music, but it pales in comparison to the Worms series in terms of depth and strategic possibilities. For those looking for a quick and simple battle on the go and who are willing to contend with the possibility of their opponents having paid for a significant advantage, it’s a solid option. For everyone else, though, there are better asynchronous competitive games out there — and the four-player Facebook counterpart is a more interesting game purely for having two additional players in the mix.
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Pales in comparison to both its Facebook counterpart and its clear inspiration Worms — it remains to be seen if players will take to it in significant numbers.