Game Reviews

Tiny Invaders

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| Tiny Invaders
Tiny Invaders
| Tiny Invaders

It seems like everything is getting smaller these days. Mobile phones are now thinner than crackers, the average pre-teen popstar is no taller than a fence post, and even video game heroes have shrunk to microscopic proportions.

Take Tiny Invaders, where you play as a band of intergalactic germs whose shoe sizes are measured in microns. Oh, and they fancy themselves as a world-domineering super species, right here on the big blue marble we call home.

Their plan is to methodically infect every cell in a bloke's body, then spread their viral green goop through the American population, making human-to-human leaps on rest-stop burritos and shaken hands.

Bacterial invasion

So it's your job, as leader of this inter-cellular army, to systematically overthrow the organs and arteries of several human participants using a particularly potent brand of disease-ridden pox.

In each stage you employ a one-eyed germ factory that can spit out a handful of soldier mites. These tiny drones then scuttle along the spaghetti-like maze of blood-red pathways and criss-crossed arteries, picking up any tasty white capsules they come across.

In each of the game's 60-odd single-screened stages you've got to guide these autonomous critters - by changing their route on the fly, and giving them a quick tap for a burst of speed - to pick up all of the capsules and then dutifully drop them off at the factory.

It's a pretty clever idea, and a somewhat inspired germ-driven twist on the tracks and signal changes of messy train lines.

You need to plot out a path before unleashing your army, then rework and redefine your plan while under pressure. It's not the most compulsive or rewarding puzzler on iOS, but it's certainly creative.

Viral infection

But here's the twist to the whole setup. In Tiny Invaders, it's entirely up to you to decide how challenged you want to be. You see, despite enemies and hurdles, there's no way to lose: no time-outs and definitely no Game Overs.

With enough time and persistence, any half-intelligent primate can eventually solve the level at hand and walk away with a one-star rating, the word "Great!" emblazoned on his iPhone, and a chirpy fanfare soundbite. It really is the taking part that counts, eh kids?

The onus is on you to play again, aim for those more prestigious two- and three-star ratings, and work on the strategy and speed needed to achieve them. Otherwise, you can coast through the game without ever scratching your head or breaking a sweat.

Contagious disease

For some, this laidback and player-driven approach to challenge might appeal. But others thrive on more rigid rules and strict win/loss states - you either kill the pigs, or you don't; you either get the candy in the monster's mouth, or you don't.

In these hallmark puzzlers, any other stars and achievements are added bonuses for obsessives and show-offs. In Tiny Invaders, gunning for faster times and the star ratings they carry is the only sense of challenge and reward on offer. And I don't find doing a level - and then having to re-do it at a faster pace - much fun.

Then again, even if you do stick it out, push yourself for those three-star ratings, and refuse to move on without fully completing each stage, Hogrocket's debut stumbles.

Life-threatening illness

Take the game's obsession with tiny speed bursts. To get those fabled three-star ratings you'll need to give your mites a nudge to move on and dart along their pre-set pathways.

This little screen-tapping hurry-up often feels incongruous. What originally seems like a fast-reaction puzzle game (how fast can you change signals, map out pathways and make decisions, under pressure?) devolves into a frantic rhythm game (how fast can you tap the screen? It just doesn't quite fit.)

Not to mention that trying to tap the mites often results in accidentally triggering a signal change area, altering the landscape and leading your soldiers down the wrong path. Especially disastrous when you're aiming for those speedy times.


All said, it's an absolute shame because with more defined rules - like enemies that can actually squish your species or dead-end routes or a timer that counts down rather than up - Tiny Invaders might have been a stand-out and thoroughly addictive hit.

Not only is it creative and clever, but has the right idea about presentation. Erupting from now-dead console dev Bizarre, tiny team Hogrocket has brought a professional look and feel to the, ahem, bizarre world of Tiny Invaders. From it's cartoony visuals to kazoo-heavy soundtrack, it's unquestionably kitschy.

But with so many time-sink puzzlers on the App Store, you just can't afford to mess up in such a catastrophic way. With its lax rules, odd designs, and barmy take on difficulty, Tiny Invaders just refuses to be enough fun.

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Tiny Invaders

Cute, charming and creative, but Tiny Invader's twisted take on challenge means it rarely compels obsessive play.
Mark Brown
Mark Brown
Mark Brown spent several years slaving away at the Steel Media furnace, finally serving as editor at large of Pocket Gamer before moving on to doing some sort of youtube thing.