Castle Champions (iOS) review

Castle Champions is a new iOS game from Gamenauts. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, with additional in-app purchases of in-game currency.

Castle Champions

Castle Champions is pitched as what would happen “if Tiny Tower got bloody” and that’s actually a rather accurate description — players alternate their time between managing a castle tower in a very similar fashion to Nimblebit’s runaway success, and engaging in combat with rival teams of warriors. Because the player is thrown into combat every few minutes, there’s a stronger feeling of “structure” to the experience rather than mindless tapping and restocking in the pursuit of nothing but the more efficient acquisition of currency — here, you’re not only building a tall tower, but also training troops and heroes to send into combat.

The tower management aspect of the game requires the player to construct various types of room to perform different functions. Residential rooms house people who can staff commercial and industrial rooms; commercial and industrial rooms provide income when staffed and fully stocked. Meanwhile, the main addition to Tiny Tower’s basic formula comes in the form of military rooms, whose residents can be added to the player’s battle team rather than the workforce. Military rooms also allow the player to level up their forces in exchange for soft currency.

Screen Shot 2013-03-14 at 10.21.26 AMThere are a couple of other twists on the Tiny Tower formula, too. There are two rooms per floor, for starters, and this means that when taking new arrivals up in the elevator — yes, the castle has a Tiny Tower-style elevator — the player has the choice to deliver them to either the left or right room when taking them to their chosen floor. This is more than just an idle decision, too, as if new arrivals are taken directly to military or residential rooms, they will immediately move in. Taking them to commercial or industrial rooms, meanwhile, will immediately provide a small amount of income — though generally not really enough to make it worthwhile in most cases.

Every three minutes while the player is actively playing the game, a new tournament battle begins. Prior to this time, the player must arrange their formation of military units and their hero, level them up and ensure they are prepared for battle. Once battle begins, the player’s involvement is limited to watching and occasionally triggering their hero character’s special ability — there is no real strategy involved outside of ensuring the forces they take into battle are the strongest possible, and no tactical play more complex than “press the special ability button as soon as it is active.” Incentive to try and win battles is provided by a “winning streak bonus” that increases the price in the player’s shops and the number of people who will come to shop in them; losing a battle causes this bonus to return to its normal level.

The game is completely lacking in social features right now, which is a shame — an often-overlooked aspect of Tiny Tower’s success is the simple fact that players could compare their performance against their friends in some lightweight competition. At the very least, it would have been nice to see some Game Center leaderboard and/or achievement support, but there’s seemingly no such feature right now.

The game monetizes through sales of its hard currency, which is primarily used to speed up time-consuming tasks such as building new rooms, restocking items and completing quests with military units for income. Various “booster” items are also available to give players an edge in the combat sequences. Hard currency is earned at a reasonable rate through normal play, so there is no real obligation for players to reach for their credit cards, though the game doesn’t feel quite as generous as Tiny Tower was.

Castle Champions

Relative lack of gameplay depth aside, Castle Champions has a certain degree of charm. The regular battles help break up the monotony of tower management and give the player something to aim for, while the few tweaks to Tiny Tower’s formula help make it a slightly more interesting game. Ultimately it’s still rather directionless in the long term, but for fans of Nimblebit’s classic looking for something new to build this is a worthwhile download.

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A fun evolution of the Tiny Tower formula, but ultimately still rather directionless in the long run.