by Sam Riedel2
Tiny Token Empires Review
Puzzle-Based Combat? Yes, Please
Like many people with a marginal amount of free time and an addictive personality, I enjoy playing Bejeweled. For me, the attraction is in the ever-shifting nature of each puzzle and the challenge of racking up longer and longer chains (at which I usually fail). But my heart still belongs to the strategy genre & childhood favorites like Age of Empires and Civilization. Imagine, then, my glee when I discovered Tiny Token Empires, the new turn-based strategy game from BiP Media that combines turn-based strategy and arcade puzzle games by utilizing a Bejeweled-esque combat system.
Take a minute to let that sink in. This game is crazy.
If you’ve ever played a historically-based strategy game, the basic premise of Tiny Token Empires will be very familiar to you. You control one of several classical empires—Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Persian, or Carthaginian—and attempt to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, etc. You build cities and recruit troops in much the same way you would in any other turn-based strategy game, but with one crucial twist: all battles—whether your army is fighting a phoenix for its treasure or engaging in a skirmish at sea—are solved through competitive Bejeweled. You and the computer take turns lining up three or more identical tokens to power up your armies to the point where they can attack. It’s a surprisingly complex approach to combat, and one that forces you to think strategically rather than just amassing a gigantic army.
The surprises don’t end there—in fact, they begin just as soon as you start playing and notice that the art and graphics are nothing short of incredible. BiP, a French company that brought us instant classics like My Farm, originally created Tiny Token Empires for PS3 and computer systems, and it definitely shows. With European-style cartoons and lovingly rendered 3D graphics, this is probably the most gorgeous game my phone ever dreamed of playing. I’ve always been a big fan of European comic art, and to see it come alive in this game is quite satisfying.
And “come alive” is the right phrase, because thanks to BiP’s writing staff, this game is as funny as it is beautiful. I hope you like sassy old hermits, pop culture references, and people with names like Vival Hasvegas (say it out loud!). I sure do, and this sort of tongue-in-cheek humor, reminiscent of Larry Gonick’s Cartoon History of the Universe, creates a farcical tone that makes it fun even to read a mission description or end-of-combat summary–and that’s no mean feat. Sure, there are translation errors, but they’re usually not enough to ruin the mood, and rarely impede clarity.
Unfortunately, the big problems in Tiny Token Empires are with the mechanics, not the grammar. Since this is a scaled-down version of the PC/Mac/PS3 edition, players with tablets will get a lot more mileage out of this game than those bound to their phones. I often found it difficult to select the correct tile during combat, and on timed challenges that require you to rotate blocks of tiles and line up a certain number of padlock tiles to unlock treasure, this often made the difference between success and failure.
More importantly, moving units is a huge hassle. I would frequently select some troops and drag them to the section of the map where I wanted them to move, and then have to tap ten or more times on the chosen area before the input was recognized and accepted. Sometimes, I’d accidentally tap a section where I couldn’t legally move, at which point an error message would pop up and I’d have to start the whole move over again. There’s also no way to scroll around the screen while dragging an army, so you’d better be zoomed in perfectly before moving anyone. On top of all that, there’s no way to undo a move if you make a mistake (which you might be able to guess I did a lot), so I hope you like adjusting your movement strategy on the fly or saving after every turn.
But those are mostly problems for phone users, and while they’re certainly frustrating, they’re just not enough to detract from how monumentally enjoyable the game is overall. BiP Media has crafted something that, if not exactly innovative, is nonetheless more original in its execution than the vast majority of games available in the Play Store in any category. Tiny Token Empires isn’t just a great mobile game; it’s a great game by any platform’s standards. It holds hours of entertainment for anyone looking for a fresh take on not one but two classic genres.
Summary: Annoying controls don't detract too much from this unique & hilarious strategy game.