It’s hard to improve on the slingshot style of games already out for iOS. Angry Birds and others like it already have that niche pretty well locked up. To get attention, a game will have to bring something more than cute critter flinging action to your fingertips. If the game boasts an engaging story, that’s even better.
Catapult King tries to hit all the slingshot buttons, while creating a fun medieval storyline and a small cast of entertaining characters. With fun, fresh gameplay and a new take on the physics puzzler, Catapult King is trying to take the slingshot game formula to new heights. But does it knock down the competition or miss the mark?
Letting the Catapult Fly
When you play Catapult King for the first time, you’ll get to watch the opening cutscene that more or less lays out what the game is about. I’m pretty sure there’s a story here, but I couldn’t find it with both hands. From what I could glean, a princess is captured by a dragon in cahoots with some knights who really don’t seem to be keeping to that whole chivalry thing. The knights start building towers out of whatever’s handy, and you, the player, need to knock them down. If you don’t, the knights will laugh at you.
Catapult King works like a 3D Angry Birds. Knock down the hastily built, shoddily constructed towers using your oversized slingshot or in this case, your catapult. There are a few different projectiles you can lob at the enemies, and the quality of the knights’ building materials improves as you move through the levels, but if you’ve played this sort of puzzler before, you’ve already got the basic Catapult King idea. However, the implementation of the slingshot/catapult mechanics in Catapult King feels new and fresh.
To launch the rocks, tap and drag backwards. That will control your lift and the distance you’ll get with each launch. Swing back and forth to aim, and release to let the projectile fly. As you move deeper into the game, you can also ratchet your catapult’s arm up or down for increased control.
Moving through the Catapult King stages, you’ll be rewarded with magic, allowing you to purchase projectiles with special abilities. You can create earthquakes or cause moon rocks to fall from the sky, and each projectile has its advantages against the tower building materials or architectural anomalies.
Use too many fancy rocks, and you’re going to run out of magic juice, but there’s an in-app system to buy more. You can play just fine collecting magic as you go though, never needing to lay out the cash for that extra boost. However, if you enjoy the app, you should always consider supporting the developers.
Catapult King is in Game Center, but those aren’t the leaderboards you’ll get in the app. Instead it’s all through Crystal, which requires a separate log in. To see the Game Center leaderboards, you’re going to have to leave the app. It does let you share status messages to Facebook and Twitter from within the game, though. This will also get you some magic to spend on fancy projectiles.
Catapults and Characters
There is definitely a cuteness factor here, but the style of graphics and animation won’t suit everyone. I found myself more annoyed with the little knights than anything else, trying to kill them all in one go so they wouldn’t flash me or otherwise badger me at the end of the round. Otherwise, there isn’t anything to write home about here when it comes to design. The cartoon wooden towers look like cartoon wooden towers, and the projectiles look like big rocks.
Some people are going to find the gibbering knights hilarious, but I had to turn the sound off on my phone. Their constant chirping and taunting was not only annoying, it was repetitive. I could only listen to the same jeers so long before I couldn’t take it. Sure I wanted to slam a rock into them all the more for their chipmunk-like razzing of my catapulting skills, but it was easier — and more enjoyable — to turn the sound off all together.
The setting and failed attempt to create a story really detract from an otherwise great physics puzzler. The knights are distracting — oh, and did I mention annoying — and the story groundwork is never really built on. Even leading into the boss level, I still have know idea who I am, why I’m trying to save the princess, and why all these tower-building knights have such a beef with me.
That said, despite the knights’ antics and Catapult King’s thin story, this is a really cute game. More than that, it brings new, inventive gameplay to a pretty packed genre. It takes practice and skill to work out these puzzles, and each level requires more thought than the last to complete. If you like physics puzzlers or are a fan of slingshot or catapult games, this is really one to give a try. And if you need it, the volume buttons are right there on the side of your iPhone.