App of the Day: Tiny Heroes

Perfectly formed.

Version tested iPhone

Forget Populous. Forget Fable. Forget The Movies. (You'd forgotten that one anyway.) For me, Peter Molyneux's finest work remains his 1997 strategy effort, Dungeon Keeper.

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Watch out for those fellas in the gold armour. Fists of steel. Made of gold.

In which, fellow old buffers may recall, you got to design and manage your own dungeons. These were populated by armies of imps you could smack about in an hilarious fashion. A superbly crafted, brilliantly addictive game, Dungeon Keeper provided entertainment during a summer when you couldn't turn on the TV without encountering the words "Paris tunnel" or that video of Natalie Imbruglia moping about in a hoodie.

I remember the game with such fondness I recently found myself searching for "like Dungeon Keeper" when looking for a new app to play. (Yes, Apple, until you sort out the way Store content is presented, we are reduced to Googling 15 year-old Peter Molyneux games. Well done.) That's how I came across Tiny Heroes.

This game sees you fighting off knights, wizards, thieves and so on as they try to infiltrate your dungeon and steal your gold. Just like old times, then... But there's a brand new twist.

OK, "brand new" might be a bit strong. Even "new" is pushing it, particularly if you've played Plants vs. Zombies or the billions of rip-offs it inspired. Yes, Tiny Heroes is a tower defence game.

In this one, you can choose from a range of defence mechanisms to protect your treasure. They include stationary devices such as floor spikes and wall blades, obstacles like barricades and tar pools, and cleaver-wielding orcs who can heal themselves in-between chopping up wizards.

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Cold and I am shamed, lying naked on the floor.

Placing weapons costs mana. This is earned from the pools dotted around levels and any crystals you've placed within them. Each defence mechanism has a cooldown time and the range of defences you can choose from increases as you progress through the game.

Familiar stuff. But there are some subtle twists which set Tiny Heroes apart, such as the way levels are laid out. Unlike in PvZ, you don't have an open playing field on which to build your defences. You're constrained by the pillars, pathways and openings which already exist within the dungeons. It helps that each map is intelligently designed and feels sufficiently different from the others.

The enemies are smarter than PopCap's shuffling brainmunchers. They will actively try to avoid damage and work out alternative routes. If they do make it through to your vaults, there's still a chance you can stop them making off with your gold as they have to lug it all the way back out of the dungeon. This introduces another layer of strategy as you frantically try to reverse your defences and block their escape.

On top of all that, Tiny Heroes is free. If you're feeling flush you might want to pick up the 69 pence weapons add-on or buy some extra levels. But these are optional and there are hours of fun to be had without spending a penny.

My only complaint is that this game isn't quite the Dungeon Keeper clone I was looking for. If you know where to find one, do say so in the comments section. And if you're Peter Molyneux, can you crack on with Dungeon Keeper for iPad please? I hear you're not too busy at the moment.

App of the Day highlights interesting games we're playing on the Android, iPad, iPhone and Windows Phone 7 mobile platforms, including post-release updates. If you want to see a particular app featured, drop us a line or suggest it in the comments.

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