REVIEW: Tiny Guardians – Guardian Escort Service


Tiny Guardians is an escort defense title developed by the Malaysian-based studio, Kurechii. Originally released on the IPhone and IPad back in February 2016, the game offers a different spin on the traditional tower defense model by focusing on the little sorceress Lunalie as she traverses the lane with her guardians’ protection. Now the game is on Steam with most of the core game-play still intact and a different interface to make up for the lack of touch controls. Unfortunately, the translation from touch to mouse can be a troublesome one and Tiny Guardians is no exception.

Status: Released

Developer: Kurechii

Publisher: Kurechii

Genre: Tower Defence Strategy

Release Date: 24th of  March, 2016

Type: Single-player

The best way to describe the visual aesthetic for this title would be pleasantly simplistic. Characters and enemies have this paper doll motif that is complemented by slight movements in their walking and attack animations. Environments are colorful with little pieces of scenery posted along the walking paths. They are nothing too inspiring, but they get the job done. The real treat is with the character cards, which are beautifully detailed and change depending on the card’s level. Music and sound effects on the other hand get massively repetitive after a while due to lack of track variety. I can understand it being less of an issue though if it is played in smaller chunks instead of chugging through it as I did.

The story is presented in a couple of comic style cut-scenes and by the mission descriptions that help justify the walking path used during the journey. It is a simple tale regarding Lunalie, who wakes up one day to discover that her master has disappeared and decides to go looking for her. This leads her across bandit infested plains, forests controlled by a few troll war-chiefs and to a spooky circus attraction that might as well substitute for a haunted house. Along the way, she saves a few people that aid her in combat and collects some new cards to add to her arsenal. While I believe in keeping endings spoiler free, I will say the story ends on a “To Be Continued…”, but the main focus of the story is fulfilled once the last boss is defeated.

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There are a total of 12 cards to collect in the game; 8 provided by the story missions and four that must be purchased using coins earned by completing the Tavern’s quest requirements. Each quest boils down to completing a story mission with a certain difficulty, completing challenge levels and fighting bosses at the hardest difficulty. An upgrade system is also included, raising the effectiveness of the base categories of all four class types (Warrior, Range, Mage, Stealth)  and the three spells that are used during the game (Health regen, direct damage AoE, and a delayed AoE trap). In order to purchase these upgrades, the player must use the stars earned by completing the challenge missions and the story missions, which gives each level 4 stars and with 16 levels total – 64 stars to earn. The game also includes achievements, Steam Trading Cards, a glossary of the game’s enemies and a clean UI for both the map overlay and the level interface.

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The four types of units establish the bulk of the game-play variety with three different units per type. Warriors are comprised of the Knight (tank with a stun), Berserker (damage with spin attack) and the Paladin (tank with self heal). Range has the talented Archer (attack speed boost), Hunter (detect invisible enemies and traps) and the Sentinel (never misses and penetrating arrow). Next on the list are the mages, manned by the Magician (AoE Ice), Cleric (designated healer) and the Wizard (AoE Fire). Last, but certainly not least, is the Stealth group which includes the Rogue (damage and smoke-bombs), Assassin (multi-strike attack) and the Dancer (provides statistic boosts). They all have a purpose to perform and while the player is limited to five of them during a mission, only the Cleric feels essential.

The main goal for each mission is to reach the end of the designated path without being killed by the approaching enemies. Lunalie is unable to move once she stops and it is up to her entourage to protect her. Each unit takes up a circle in Lunalie’s sigil, which can be upgraded to allow up to six units depending on the level. Each unit is summoned at the cost of mana, which is gained by defeating enemies and by vials that are dropped by said enemies. Mana is also needed to upgrade the sigil and to upgrade the units up to level 5, granting unique skills and bonuses per level. Should a unit be defeated, they will stick around in ghost form until they manage to regain enough life to respawn and join the fight once more. In challenge mode, however, the unit is lost and half the mana that was used to buy and upgrade them is returned to your pool.

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Once the units are summoned, they can be moved by clicking on them and dragging them to a spot in the circle. I have run into a regular situation where my character will not register the movement request and just stand there, which is a serious issue during later levels and during boss fights that require extremely quick response times to avoid position based attacks. This also means positioning units is critical to prevent Lunalie from being hit by splash damage or the pesky ranged foes outside the circle of movement. Should Lunalie be injured in the story mission, the overall rating (up to three stars) decreases and requires further effort to recover the difference. This makes the inability to select specific enemies all the more frustrating, allowing a long ranged enemy such as the Creepy Cannonballer to continually attack Lunalie without being dealt with by archers standing at the edge of the movement circle. It has to do with the AI’s attack priorities (ranged attacking closer targets first for example) that can turn a three star run into a two star run.

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While I mentioned the UI was clean and crisp during the missions, I did discover a couple of issues that could have been the result of the port migration. It can be a downright hassle to upgrade a unit due to the dragging motion needed. The card has to be dragged upwards, but 5 times out of 10 the card would not visually respond to the drag and force the player to attempt the action multiple times. Spells and units also have to be dragged onto the field, but in order to cancel the action the player has to drag them back to their respective card spots. On the combat side of things, it is possible for traps not to register even when they are walked over by a unit once their charge time is set. It is also possible to see a gaggle of units suddenly stop attacking if they are too close together, such as a magician deciding to freeze up if a squad of trolls is directly on her. It causes the trolls to stop moving too, forcing my units to no longer pursue them.   Most of these issues left me baffled and equate to annoyances more than anything compared to the issues spoken of earlier.

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By the end of my experience with the story mode, I was clocked in at about 4 hours doing each mission on Normal. Once I managed to get through the challenge missions and get the coins needed to buy the last four heroes, I calculated a grand total of 10 hours with about thirty minutes spent in the endless mode. Usually I would say this is enough to justify a $10 cost, but the game presented plenty of technical and situational issues that weighed the game down a bit. I felt most of the missions to be very slow paced, filled with predictable enemy types and boring micro-management that fails to register commands when it matters. This is why I cannot recommend the game on PC, but it might be worth it on mobile at $4. Granted, the slow pacing is still an issue on mobile, but the movement issues and UI dragging problems are less of a detriment.

Pro

  • Cute, simple aesthetic
  • Class types offer some variety
  • Some of the challenge modes can be enjoyable

Neutral

  • Very simple story
  • Short supply of levels
  • Slow pacing during each level

Cons

  • Control scheme for units and upgrading fails to register
  • Inability to select enemy units mixed with AI issues

RATING: 45/100

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