Catapult King by Wicked Witch Software launched onto iOS today, offering Angry Birds-style destruction with 3D models and a medieval twist. Your goal is to knock down castles that stand between you and a princess that has been captured by a dragon. You change lateral angle, elevation, and force of the catapult, and can get a bit of extra guidance thanks to magic potions that you earn over the course of gameplay or through in-app purchases.
To beat each level, you need to take out all of the guards on a castle, but earn bonus points based on how much destruction you cause, how few boulders you fire from the catapult, and whether your attacks touch the three special gems peppered throughout the map. You can easily survey the whole 3D area simply by tapping and panning about, which is usually necessary for far-away targets and to find hidden objectives. There are a ton of secondary bonuses you can earn from direct hits on soldiers, knocking them out with ricochets, and eliminating targets speedily. Much like Angry Birds, there are also a variety of shots available, such as bombs, splitters, and even lunar storms. Though there are 64 levels to chew through and the unending obsession to three-star all of them, the level scenery doesn't change too much; by and large, you're always doing your catapulting on rolling hills of green at different times of the day, even though the targets change.
The graphics are very sharp - to the point where I actually found the framerate choppy on the iPhone 4 at times. Still, the models and textures blew Seigecraft, a similar title, right out of the water. The bobble-head art style aims to be cute, but there's just something about those extra-bulgy eyes that's just creepy. The UI was surprisingly efficient, though; upon launching the game, you're just launched right into your most recent level after getting through loading and a short splash screen. You actually have to back out in order to get to stage selection, which is a nice change of pace from having to deal with the usual title screen. Additionally, the restart level button is in the exact same spot as the pause button, making resets kick in with a quick double-tap. I was really impressed with the audio, right from the sound of the crank when change your catapult's angle to the squeaky jeers of the guards.
Catapult King is universal, so no worries about transferring purchases. Unfortunately, cloud syncing doesn't seem to work either through iCloud or Chillingo's Crystal social network, so you might have a rough time keeping progress . Game Center is there at least to keep tabs on achievements and leaderboards.
I would go so far as to say that I have a lot more fun playing Catapult King than Angry Birds. The same kind of appeal is there, except the 3D element adds a ton more strategic depth and visual appeal. The reward system has more layers, plus you're not continuously nagged to buy the other games in the series or cough up more dough for in-app purchases. Catapult King offers a really great variety of challenges to complete in each level, which translates to a goodly amount of replay value. The guards might get on your nerves after awhile, but I'm pretty sure that's the general idea.