Hip To Be Square: Battle Of The Tiles
When reading around Gravity Bone's internet footprint, I found myself catching up with Game Tunnel's Game of The Year (They gave GB their arthouse game of the year award). And when I'm there, I realise that I hadn't played their Strategy Game of the Year, a little thing called Battle of the Tiles. A graphically unappealing indie turn-based strategy game? I'm so there. Opinions of the demo beneath the cut...
Well, first thing to understand is that it's not actually that ugly at all. It's functional, and that functionality is part of its charm. Secondly, whilst it's turn based, it's the sort of pacy-turn based which doesn't really feel like it. You control an army. Every turn, you can move any number of your troops in one direction. As in, you can select them all and click right, and they trundle a step forward. But if you only want to move one individual up, you can only move him. As you walk to the right, ever more foes appear, and you take them down. Each creature will automatically attack whatever comes within range - which varies depending on the nature of the tile in question.
It's basically a Tower Defence game meets Kung-Fu Master, with you trying to organise your troops for maximum about of destruction. Some of it is obvious - arranging melee troops in front of those with ranged, etc. Some are less so - your characters all level up as they defeat monsters, so you'll want to actually try and spread the experience so you're not stuck with a bunch of rookies at the back. Every step your army makes forward heals people a little, but that can be boosted by healing characters. Also, by defeating foes, you earn money. By double-clicking an enemy, you can buy them and add them to your ever-stomping army - the question being, who do you want.
In other words, it's a game where you can see all the rules very quickly, but the permutations they play out in are subtler than the immediately appear. And it's got a real basic compulsiveness to it - you want to march to the right. You want to get stronger troops. And there's really something satisfying to seeing a big block of troops all slide to the right with a single click of yours.
There's a big chunk of game in the demo, and with only five dollars to buy the full game, it realises there's more ways to be attractive than just in graphical veneer. I liked this a lot.