If you missed out on our WWDC preview, allow me to calibrate your expectations about Tiny Heroes [$2.99], a new tower defense title from Simutronics Corp. You may have heard that the team behind this game was headed up by David Whatley, the developer of the outstanding geoDefense [$1.99 / Lite] and geoDefense Swarm [$1.99]. Already your brain may be whirring along, thinking about upgradeable towers and mazing. Stop that. You won't find those here. And you won't miss them, either.

In Tiny Heroes, you are the master of a dungeon rich with treasure. In classic Dungeons & Dragons style, where there is treasure, there are heroes. Are you going to sit back and let them take your treasure? Heck no! So you set up defenses in their way, and who can blame you if a few of those defenses are a touch lethal? You have liability insurance, right?

Once you push past the first few levels, which introduce you to the basics a bit too slowly, you'll find a game that has more in common with Plants vs. Zombies than geoDefense. The first clue is in the resource management: rather than profiting from killing heroes, you build mana stones that generate mana every few seconds. You use that mana to build your defenses, which are designed to block the oncoming heroes. Why politely leave a path for them to travel down when you can stop them in their tracks?

As you progress through the game, you unlock all manner of vicious defenses. Spike traps, catapults and barricades are just the beginning. You'll get so many that you won't be able to carry them all into battle. Instead, Tiny Heroes requires you to strategize and pick your poison before starting each stage. You'll need to learn how to combine your most brutal traps with static defenses and creatures to effectively guard your treasure, and you'll need to make sure you have the resources to pull your plan off.

But for each imaginative defense you set up, the heroes are ready to counter it. Knights march in with a single-minded appetite for destruction, thieves dismantle your traps from a safe distance and wizards take out your mana crystals, starving you for resources. Once you get a handle on defeating them, you'll find yourself facing epic versions of each. Your unbeatable combo may be able to take out basic knights with ease, but then an epic ranger will sweep in and keep things balanced.

It's the dungeon layouts and pathing that take Tiny Heroes from Plants vs. Zombies clone territory to something quite different, though. Each level has a unique layout, requiring an original strategy. The level layout can help or hurt the heroes, because they don't travel in the ways we've come to expect. In most tower defense games, enemies use basic pathing logic. They'll travel down the path that takes them to their goal most quickly, to hell with the consequences.

In Tiny Heroes, on the other hand, the heroes are a little more complicated. In their tiny brains they have a drive to explore, to find the best path based on what they can see. While this does occasionally lead to weirdness, like heroes wandering back and forth under fire, it also means that they put up a good fight -- and that you can trick them.

For a game about the wholesale slaughter of friendly adventurers, Tiny Heroes is surprisingly adorable. Big goofy eyes can be found on the heroes and more of the defenses than you'd expect, and the animations are similarly charming. The only thing that's missing is music. I've spent hours on end with this game and haven't minded the lack, but if you're auditorially inclined you'll certainly miss it.

But otherwise, Tiny Heroes is a complete package. The two included campaigns are huge and challenging, and there's a third coming as a purchasable update. The Game Center/OpenFeint achievements are done beautifully: you're rewarded with new defenses for completing groups of them, adding quite a lot of replayability to the game. You can play through in Campaign Mode, and then replay individual levels for higher scores and achievements in Quick Play. There are also challenge levels to be had, and these put your skills to a serious test.

There is one in-app purchase available, but let me stress that it's totally optional. The Defense Expansion gives you four new defenses that aren't available in normal gameplay. They are very slightly overpowered, but this is by design: they're there to help people who find the game too frustrating. If you're stuck and you'd rather not pay, the developers have a series of walkthrough videos available on their website, and forums to discuss strategy.

iPad users are currently out of luck, but according to the developers an iPad version is planned. It's expected to have it's own set of levels that take advantage of the extra screen real estate, so it should be worth the wait.

I can't say enough about Tiny Heroes. It's a fantastic game, with few flaws to speak of. Challenging, but rarely frustrating, it had me returning to levels again and again to improve my score. By turning genre conventions on their heads, Tiny Heroes succeeds brilliantly. And you don't have to take my word for it alone -- our discussion thread is packed with fans. Who wouldn't want to throw down against a bunch of greedy do-gooders, just this once?

TouchArcade Rating

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  • http://twitter.com/AhiruDuck Ahiru Nakamura

    drooling but also waiting for a price drop (anytime baby, not in a hurry)

  • RegularStormy

    So it's Dungeon Keeper without the actual dungeon building part. Hmmm, could be fun!

  • theRPGNOOB

    IF I SEE ANOTHER MOTHER F**KING TOWER DEFENSE GAME I WILL RAGE.

    • Anonymous

      1 week later..... "Name of Tower Defense Game" Review

      theRPGNOOB: RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGEEEEEEEEEEE

  • Wagrous

    I love this game!  Played it for 4 hours straight and couldn't wait for my next Tiny Heroes fix. 

  • Kiyogi

    This game is absolutely worth it! Loving every minute of it!

  • ktern

    Can you play your own music in this game, considering it doesn't have its own BGM?

    • http://twitter.com/AhiruDuck Ahiru Nakamura

      haven't played it but since they [idevices] have multitask you should be able to do that

  • David

    no universal?

  • Me

    Agreed! This screams iPad.
    Need HD version NAO!

  • DontRipMeOff

    Please please pleas make this UNIVERSAL! insta buy if universal.
    Will not pay for it twice.
    Releasing an iPhone only game first these days screams "we are going to rip you off later when we re-release it in HD using the same game and original HD graphics that we downsized for iPhone."

    • Happy W

      In this particular case, releasing an iPhone-only game first screams "WE ARE GOING TO RELEASE A SPECIAL IPAD VERSION LATER THAT CONSISTS ENTIRELY OF ALL-NEW LEVELS DESIGNED FOR THE LARGER SCREEN, SO THERE WILL BE ZERO OVERLAP WITH THE IPHONE VERSION'S CONTENT."

      Link

  • theRPGNOOB

    @Nizen:disqus I know right, the app store is flooded with tower defense games that offer nothing new to this stagnant part of gaming (there are a few exceptions like anomaly warzone earth.)

  • Fannyslacks

    i really like this game. 

  • Jodi Giordano

    It's cool to see a new PvZ-like game! And coming from the guy that made GeoDefense, it must be great!

  • Grimreaper_79

    It's a fun game, and I like it overall, but the review forgets to mention it lacks polish. There is not even music and the user interface is sluggish and very often a trap is misplaced due to the similar control issues found in gd1. And every time you complete a level I think it's about to crash due to that half second the game freezes. It could use another three or four weeks of extra work for sure. 3/5

  • Aer2

    this will not be universal, the ipad version is in the works (not anytime soon it sounds like) but the level layouts will be completely different, so not really double dipping.

  • http://rekzkarz.com REkzkaRZ

    Got it for $3.  Now it's on sale for $1.  Pretty darned good game, wish I'd added it to my AppShopper list instead of impulse buying -- but whatever, I can afford to support good game dev's!

  • http://www.funtdgames.com Tower Defense

    is this games any good

    • Ruralgeek

      It's amazing! :D

  • Mr. Stradecke

    This game rocks!!!

  • http://twitter.com/AhiruDuck Ahiru Nakamura

    so the .99c sale came earlier than expected!! glad i held onto it...
    anyways, great game!!! does anyone have any tips on the Rat Race level?? all i get is 2 stars :( can't seem to hold the treasure in the room....

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TPDCLLQ2JDLUVBGJMP4FWFVBWQ zach

    Awesome Game. One downside... DONT PUT "COMING SOON" ON SOMETHING THAT HASN'T BEEN RELEASED IN MONTHS! There is no homepage that posts the status of the "workshop" which is the upcoming level expansion. It shows unlockable defenses that I have been waiting ages to unlock. I think this game is buckets of fun, but throw us a bone. Either release the expansion or remove the in game advertisement for it.

  • Chris Gamer

    All TD game fans, do try Battleground Defense. Nice graphics and gameplay.

  • Peter Bishop

    Didn't like the graphics :-(

Tiny Heroes Reviewed by Nissa Campbell on . Rating: 5