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33rd Division Review

33rd Division TiG Rapid Review




No Man Left Behind in Craneballs Studios Line-Drawing Game

33rd Division is shaping up to be one of the essential games in the line-drawing genre available in the App Store. As a follow-up to their early Summer 2009 hit, Blimp - The Flying Adventure, Craneballs Studios delivers another stunningly beautiful game that is well-suited to the iPhone/iPod Touch platform.

The concept is very simple. You escort 3 different types of characters to a specific way-point on the opposite side of the map. You do this by drawing a line from your character to create the path he follows to get to safety. The challenge, of course, is getting past several roaming guards patrolling 1 of 5 available maps. If spotted or touched by one of the guards, you are gunned down and you lose a life. You can stop moving at any time and even duck to avoid being spotted with a single-tap on your character and another tap to move again. Success depends on continuous management of each character on the map and reacting quickly to the changing positions of enemy guards.

The gameplay dynamics vary with having 3 different types of characters that move at different speeds. The soldier is the most frequent character that appears in the game and yields the fewest points. A medic appears on occasion and is the fastest moving character. The sergeant is the most valueable character but moves the slowest and rarely appears. Power-ups such as "double speed" can help get your character to safety as fast it can lead you right into certain death! Other timed power-ups give you invisibility or freezes your enemies momentarily. The number of enemy guards on the map will vary so you must carefully anticipate when a new guard will appear.

Perhaps the 2-biggest game changers in 33rd Division are "Mortar Fire" and "Sudden Death" modes, which appear briefly at different times in the game. In mortar fire, you are not only advancing your players to safety but dodging continuous enemy fire at the same time. This is a deliberant attempt to force you to move your characters. In sudden death mode, you get 10X the number of points for each character escorted to safety but the game is immediately over if any get killed during that 30 second period.

33rd Division Review
33rd Division Review
33rd Division Review
33rd Division Review
33rd Division Review
33rd Division Review

33rd Division features 2 game modes. In "Life Mode", you get 5 lives to start and the game continues until you run out of lives. This mode tends to appeal to a more casual style of gameplay with emphasis on good-scoring and less challenge. Life mode lacks a bit of multi-tasking in that you are not forced to manage multiple characters at once. This is a huge contrast to the way you would control multiple planes in Flight Control (Firemint) or simultaneously manage several boat in Harbor Master (Imangi Studios) and the gameplay suffers a little as a result. The issue could perhaps be improved by deducting points for not bringing new characters onto the map in a certain amount of time or just automatically bring characters onto the map and force mu. "Time mode", by contrast, offers lots of challenge but is much harder to score well. It definitely forces you to work at least 2 characters at once to stay in the game. With 30 seconds to start, time elapses quickly especially since your soldier moves particularly slow. Any character killed results in a time penalty as well.

Graphically, 33rd Division is perfect. Much like Blimp - The Flying Adventure, Craneballs Studios has a done a great job in delivering a visually stunning game that competes easily with games at higher price points. There are 5 maps available (Caen, Torino, Reims, Pilsen, and Stuttgart), which are all based on actual European WWII settings. Maps are unlockable simply by obtaining a certain number of points earned with each game session.

The Hits:

  • 5 beautifully-drawn maps based on actual WWII settings.
  • Fun and numerous power-ups that boosts scoring capability and enhance the gameplay.
  • Open-Feint enabled to compete against friends.
  • 2 games modes appeal to both casual and hard-core gamers by including a fun and relaxing experience in "Life Mode" and more intense and challenging gameplay in "Time Mode".
  • Craneballs Studios is excellent about updating and enhancing their games.

The Misses:

  • Life Mode is good for high-scoring but gameplay can lag after a several minutes since you can focus on one man at a time. However, the new map in the 1.1 update (Stuttgart, Germany) provides decisively more challenge with more visual detail, tougher clearance room around a railway station, and a train that comes around every few minutes.

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In a Nutshell:

33rd Division is a highly respectable game in the line-drawing genre. Graphically, it is one of the best. With 5 maps, there is sufficient playability for the $0.99 price. Craneballs Studios presents a highly-polished game with essential features such as online scoring and original soundtrack and voices that enhance the gameplay experience. It falls short of being "totally addictive" in "Life Mode" by not forcing players to manage multiple characters at once. Still, it is the clever blend of line-drawing and reverse tower defense style that makes the game unique and fun. Additional maps and features are expected in future updates, which should extend the replay value.

33rd Division matches up nicely to the quality of other line-drawing icon games such Flight Control (Firemint) and Harbor Master (Imangi Studios). So, if you think you are master of the sea, rule the sky, then why not show your military prowess on land and see how many soldiers you can lead to safety.

If you are still undecided, try the lite version available in the App Store!

UPDATE (11/18/09) - Version 1.2 has been submitted featuring a new Hamburg, Germany map (top middle picture above) with oil to slow you down, 2 new power-ups (available in all maps) and 2 new achievements!