Military march of the penguins
Worms clones are a dime a dozen these days. Earlier copy-cats like Hedgewarsand GunBound remain a cinch to locate and download today — for free nonetheless– while more recent inspirations of Team17’s benchmark strategy game continue to pop up across a variety of modern formats. From Facebook to mobile devices, games such as American McGee’s Crazy Fairies and Wild Ones strive to replicate Worms’s massive success, all while attempting to bring something new to the table.
But as any franchise’s base formula gets replicated time and time again, the rehashed premise can start to become stale. The only things capable of saving a potential clone from falling by the wayside are either an innovative twist to the main mechanics of the originator, or a respectful emulation of its premise paired with exceptional production values.
“ Digital Chocolate’s latest offering, Crazy Penguin Wars: Tiny Duels looks to fall more into the latter category, choosing to optimize the overall experience towards a focus on convenience and handheld devices rather than rewrite the book on strategic arsenal-based gameplay. A spin-off of the still-popular Facebook game Crazy Penguin Wars (which garnered a positive from us last year), this new offering shares many similarities with its social network progeny, but adds in a few twists and tweaks that make it less of a mere port, and more of a game all of its own.
The first main difference from the facebook version is the touch controls, which make basic operation of the game a breeze. Big buttons on the left and right of the screen command your penguin to move across the stage, while dragging a virtual spring beneath the character triggers a jump. Aiming shots mimics mouse control, utilizing click-and-hold mechanics to tweak power and position of each shot, firing your attack upon release. Another change with the iOS port is the removal of 4-on-4 matches and the use of special abilities, such as shields. This pared-down port keeps it simple, offering 1-on-1 matches where each player simply picks a weapon and shoots.
The biggest change from the Facebook original however is the asynchronous gameplay. While the original Crazy Penguin Wars was played in real-time — with a clock that ran down requiring you to act fast and pull of shots before it was too late — this latest entry in the franchise abandons timers altogether. Instead, you are given a stamina bar and one shot per turn, limiting your total movement and allowing you to take your time to plan out a strategy. This really gives you a chance to play around with manipulating the environment, as you can use terrain to your advantage either to trap your opponent or create a defense.
“ While the ability to pop into the game for a turn and then jump back out again is well-suited for the short attention span many gamers-on-the-go demand, the complete lack of any synchronous gameplay mode feels like a bit of a missed opportunity. Rather than see one game through to the end in one sitting, you’ll instead build up a sporadic slew of half-finished games as you wait for opponents to take action. Thankfully, Digital Chocolate was smart enough to have the game inform you which opponents are currently online, and offers you the option to jump between games turn after turn, in an effort to minimize downtime and ensure you make the most out of that short bus ride or lunch break.
Updates to the game are promised for the future, which will supposedly offer added features like the ability to chat with opponents, but there are some basic things that need to be addressed before bells and whistles are attached to the experience. First off, sometimes the game will just go black, with sound and music continuing to play. This happens mostly when heading back out to the home screen. While the magic of asynchronous gameplay makes it easy enough to force-close the program and jump back into the battle afterwards, the issue stunts the otherwise smooth transitions between opponents. A less frequent hiccup occurs sporadically, which causes the on-screen buttons above and below your character to disappear (the jump and fire button). If you press where they usually are, you can still trigger jumps and shots, but the first time it happens is a bit baffling.
“ Perhaps the most puzzling thing to grasp is exactly how points are awarded. Rather than defeat your opponent, you instead need to tally 200 points to win. It is obvious from the payouts that more damage dealt equals more points awarded, but the way the game mixes up health points and overall points seems a bit superfluous. Why not just grant an increased health bar and call it a day?
As a free-to-play game, its hard not to recommend Crazy Penguin Wars: Tiny Duels. It is sure to please fans of the Worms franchise as well as those looking for quick bouts of action during brief sets of downtime. The other side of the game’s F2P model, however, is the fact that you’re bound to encounter foes who clearly invested more money than time into the game, equipped with arsenals that most frugal players can’t consistently compete with. Still, pinpoint aiming and strategic terrain manipulation can remedy disparages a bit, and you can always grind to earn up currency to buy more firepower. Overall, the game is well worth a download for fans of the Worms franchise, and serves as a simple introduction to the genre for those still yet uninitiated.