Angry Birds [99¢] was released in 2009 and became a global sensation, dominating the iOS game charts. However, several months earlier, Armor Games released the popular, but lesser known title: Crush The Castle [99¢] – where players fire projectiles at architectural structures, governed by physics, to kill or squash enemies. Sound familiar? That’s right – Armor Games got there first and their series enjoyed some success (the developers report 224 million plays). Despite their early start, the cute graphical characters from Angry Birds had mass appeal and became the ultimate money-making juggernaut, completely redefining success on the App Store. Undeterred, Armor Games has now released a new game in the same vein, Siege Hero [99¢ / HD].
Siege Hero offers 63 levels, with 10 additional special levels which unlock as you progress. Each level involves killing or squashing knights, vikings or samurais by propelling the allocated sequence of rocks, oil barrels, fire-jars or gunpowder (bombs). The fire-jars destroy wood and ice structures. The oil barrels do collateral damage, taking out humans without damaging the surroundings. Some levels include peasants or maidens who add extra points if spared death, or deduct points if harmed.
The realistically styled graphics from Crush The Castle have had a make-over, to become more cartoonish, giving the game an unmistakable Angry Birds feel. This is further emphasized by cartoon cut-scenes without narration, and the enemies laugh at the end of each level which are all distinctive traits of the unhappy birds. Clearly the developers are evolving their original title, but also incorporating some learnings from the most successful game in the App Store.
Siege Hero brings some new ideas: First off, Angry Birds features a ‘profile’ perspective, with projectiles being thrown across the screen, from left-to-right. Siege Hero uses a first-person perspective so we’re viewing from the perspective of our unseen catapult.
Secondly, Angry Birds requires multiple attempts and adjustments to get the trajectory right and provides the previous flightpath to help you to aim. In contrast, Siege Hero offers a telescopic view, so players can target and consistently hit the exact desired spot. You never miss, making the game more about strategic hits and less about repetition. It also means levels are completed faster than Angry Birds. A tap on the screen fires the projectile, while a press activates the telescopic sights, which conveniently relocate to avoid your finger. The telescopic view is the key feature of this game.
The physics engine is implemented using Cocos2d / Box2d libraries which work well; objects fall where expected. Achievements and rankings are integrated with Game Center. Instead of scoring three stars per level, the goal is to earn a golden crown. The epic music score is cinematic which suits the game.
Siege Hero has a couple of weak points. The levels are varied and interesting, but it only took an hour to complete two thirds of the game. Granted, it would take longer for those seeking golden crowns for each level. The developers advise additional campaigns are coming. The storyline in Angry Birds is conveyed in short unvoiced cartoon cutscenes between chapters. Siege Hero uses a similar approach, however their story is harder to interpret, which detracts from bringing the characters to life, which has been a key part of Angry Birds success. Lastly, the ability to zoom in and out is available, but limited, at least on the iPhone version. Despite these drawbacks, the game successfully draws you in, to complete “just one more level".
There’s also a popular online flash version of the game, released in 2010, named Sieger however this features the old Crush the Castle graphics and is not representative of the new iOS release. Interestingly, the flash version includes a level editor and the ability to access shared levels online, although that functionality is not provided within the IOS release.
If you enjoy games like Angry Birds or Crush The Castle, but want something slightly different, Siege Hero is for you. The first person perspective is a neat change, and seeing how they differentiate themselves from the competition in future updates will be interesting to see.