Game review: Hero Academy

If you know me, you know I’m a picky gamer. I don’t play a lot of games, but that’s not because I don’t like gaming — I just can never find a game that I enjoy long enough to stick with it. Hero Academy, a turn-based strategy game on iOS and Windows, just made its way to Steam, and it’s got me hooked. Let’s dive in together to see what makes this game so great.

Gameplay

Hero Academy is sort of like chess, in the sense that you have different “chess pieces” that do different things, and there’s a certain kind of strategy that you have to keep in mind that’s similar to how you would strategize in chess. Hero Academy consists of five different characters (or “units”) and a wealth of different items like shields, swords, and helmets that you can use to upgrade your units, as well as one-time-use items like health potions, fireballs, and boosts.

You get 25 of a mixture of units and items per game, but only have access to five at a time. When you use them up, you get new units/items to replace the ones you used until all 25 are used up. Look at it as a deck of cards with a five-card hand.

Each player gets five moves per turn, and you can use those moves however you like. You can do a mixture of moving and attacking, or spend a turn simply building up your army for a major attack later in the game. You can even spend a move swapping an item in your hand for something else that’s waiting in the queue, in case you’re dealt a crappy hand.

The goal of the game is to either destroy all of your opponents’ units or destroy their jewel — whichever comes first. The game board includes special squares that give you certain boosts when one of your units lands on them. These include different types of increased attack power and defense strength.

Misc. features

All users receive the Council “starter” team when they begin playing Hero Academy. You can buy different teams (Dark Elves, Dwarves, Tribe, and the Team Fortress 2 team) for a few bucks per team. All the teams are relatively balanced, so there’s no real big advantage to using the paid teams other than having different characters besides the default ones — every team has roughly the same type of units that do the same thing with the same amount of power. Some units on the paid teams do things that other teams can’t, but there’s usually a trade-off  for those units.

Availability and pricing

Hero Academy is available on Steam for $4.99 and on iOS as a free, ad-supported download. When you buy the Steam version, you get the Team Fortress 2 team for free, along with the Council starter team. Sadly, the TF2 team isn’t available to purchase on iOS, but you can still buy the other teams for $1.99 each (removing the game’s ads while you do so) and get different avatar packs ($0.99 each) as well.

Conclusion

In a word, Hero Academy is addictive. Any game that allows you to play against your friends usually has a great lasting appeal, and Hero Academy has that and much more. The chess-like strategy mixed with the different attack items makes the game a unique title that a lot of casual gamers will enjoy.

Draw Something, the fastest-growing social game ever

Since its release in February, Draw Something has been nothing but a social-gaming sensation. In the first five weeks of availability, the game saw over 20 million downloads and currently has well over 35 million downloads. To give you an idea of just how many downloads that is, Instagram has around 27 million users and Foursquare has just over 15 million (which took three years to get). Over one billion pictures have been drawn on Draw Something with 3,000 drawings being uploaded every second. The game is so popular that it beat Words With Friends to become the most popular Facebook game.

If you don’t know what Draw Something is, it’s a two-player-only game where you…yes…draw something and your opponent tries to guess what you drew and vice versa. It’s sort of an interesting twist on Pictionary. You can also earn coins and such, and there’s different settings that you can change and cool statistics that you can look at. It’s the type of game where you have to play it yourself to truly understand it.

Developer OMGPOP surprisingly hasn’t spent a dime on marketing the game since it’s launch on February 1st. The free, ad-supported game is apparently generating revenue of six figures every day. It’s so popular and is generating so much revenue that Zynga, developer of many popular Facebook games including FarmVille, decided to scoop up the game, as well as the entire OMGPOP developing studio last week for a cool $180 million. Twas a smart move on Zynga’s part if I do say so myself. Look for them to be milking the social drawing game for all it’s worth and then some.

The story of Draw Something and developer OMGPOP is quite a remarkable one, going from an almost-broke start-up to an overnight millionaire of sorts. It just goes to show you what the internet and its users are capable of.