Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Defend Your Castle review

Here comes the first of the three WiiWare reviews. LostWinds is scheduled for Friday, and My Life As A King's review will be ready on Monday.

Developer: XGen Studios
Publisher: XGen Studios
Release Date: May 12th, 2008
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
ESRB Notes: Cartoon Violence

For the last five years, Defend Your Castle has enjoyed massive success online as a mega-popular Flash game. And now, with the launch of WiiWare, Defend Your Castle aims to emulate this success on the Wii. Is the formula still fresh, or have these castle walls begun to crumble?

This is, without a doubt, one of the most hectic games I have ever played. The premise is simple: Defend your castle from the incoming barbarian hordes. In order to do this, just pick up an invader with your cursor and toss him in the air. Gravity takes care of the rest. There are four types of enemies you need to repel from your fortress: Normal, weaponless barbarians, battering ram-wielding foes, bomb-using psychos and humongous monsters. Each of these can be dealt with using the above tactics (Just touching the bomb guys kills them and anything nearby), with the only exception being the giants. These guys are too big to be picked up, but they are anything but invincible. You can employ one of several tactics to take these guys out, and every last one of them relies on the Pit of Conversion.

Using the Pit of Conversion is simple. Drop a foe in, wait a minute, and out pops an ally. Allies can become one of four things: Archers, explosives experts, stone masons and wizards. While an archer's abilities may seem obvious, the other three classes deserve some explanations.

The explosives experts, when triggered, will run out onto the field, rolling a bomb in front of them. When you're ready to "set them up the bomb", just poke him to detonate. Yes, it's a suicide mission, but sacrifices must be made to save the castle!

Wizards gather in a tower, ready to cast spells at your command. At first, only one spell will be available: Erase. It does just what you think, too. Aim it at an enemy, press down on the D-Pad, and he's gone. More spells can be unlocked when more wizards are assigned, such as incantations similar to the explosives expert's bombs and the Pit of Conversion's abilities.

The stone masons are the ones you're most likely to forget about. They simply wait around for your walls to get damaged, and do their best to repair it. Basically, your health will keep increasing until it's full up again. Only a few stone masons will work at a snail's pace, but get a couple dozen in there and their effects will be far more apparent.

So then, that's four classes, three of which can take out a giant with one move. The explosives experts and wizards can blow him up, wizards can also erase him, and your archers just might take him out automatically with a well-shot arrow.

Ve haff vays of making you 'splode.

If there's one problem with Defend Your Castle's gameplay, it's that it's a little boring at the beginning. From about level 1 to 15, you just get a few enemies wandering towards you every few seconds. But when the enemies start coming faster and the giants join in on the fight, things get insane.

As of my point at about level thirty, I still haven't run into any real danger of losing. Things are getting harder, though, so I expect I'll be seeing a whole lot of trouble soon enough. Or I could just try "Heroic" mode and risk dying in the first five levels.

Probably the biggest change from Defend Your Castle's original release is how it looks. Instead of the old, cartoony look, the art direction now more reflects the craft table in a kindergarten classroom. All enemies have bodies made of what look like pencil lines, normal people have buttons for heads (Giants have bottle caps with googly eyes), your cursor is a bread bag clip, and the entirety of the landscape resembles construction paper. Cardboard cut-out clouds even go by on string! I just love it to death. I really appreciate a unique art style, and Defend Your Castle certainly fits the bill. Just watch out for those Popsicle stick battering rams and cap gun ammunition!

The music is almost non-existent in Defend Your Castle. There's a small byte of music at the beginning of each stage, and a small piece at the main menu, but that's it. It's really the sound effects that are going to get your ears' attention here.

When barbarians hit the ground, they make a nice crunching sound and let out a little yelp. Alone this really isn't anything to mention at all, but when you've got five enemies falling every second, the chorus of screams is often hilarious. YELP! YAGH! YELP! It's raining men! And when it comes to the explosions and the sound of battering rams hitting your castle, it all sounds like someone vocalizing sound effects. This is actually kind of humourous, and it goes very well with the game's minimalistic art and music, giving a great "I made this in my garage" sort of feel. It really brings a whole new meaning to the term "homebrew"!

The other thing added to the WiiWare version is the inclusion of two to four player multiplayer. At any time, someone else can pick up a Wiimote and join in on the defending. Having trouble? Call a friend! However, if you're on one of the easier levels, the game doesn't seem to ramp up the enemy frequency at all to account for more people on defense. Get to the thirtieth or so level, though, and there should be plenty for you both to do.

This game could very easily last a player many, many weeks. It's addictive, and I often find myself saying "Okay, one more round, and I'm done", only to play several more levels in a row. This game just might have an infinite amount of levels, and even if it doesn't, multiplayer and "Heroic" difficulty ought to make up for it. Definitely an addictive title.


Gameplay: 8.5/10
Defend Your Castle is a great example of simplicity making something great. That being said, though, one or two more classes of enemies would have been nice. Perhaps a mounted unit, or a club-wielding barbarian? Just to add a bit more variety and unpredictability. Nonetheless, it's a fun game, and the simple controls can be easily understood by anyone.

Graphics: 9.0/10
I'm absolutely in love with this art style. I love it when people try something truly different, and XGen Studios sure thought outside the box here. Cardboard cut-out clouds, construction paper landscape and button-headed people? That's just crazy enough to work!

Audio: 8.5/10
While music is largely absent, not having it seems to me to have been a good choice. After all, if there was a tense battle-ready score playing all the time, I wouldn't be able to hear the yelps of the barbarians! The vocalized crashes and explosions are just the icing on the audible cake.

Multiplayer: 8.0/10
The multiplayer in Defend Your Castle meshes so well with the single player that it's virtually indiscernible in looks, the only difference being additional bread clips on the screen. Competing against your pals for high scores can be fun, but the lack of foes in the early levels really don't work well with four people in on the action. If it's hardly challenging alone, having your friend help out just makes it boring.

Longevity: 8.5/10
I am addicted to Defend Your Castle. It's just such a simple yet fun concept, and it sucks me in every time I click its Channel. And seriously, is there a never-ending amount of levels in this? I can see the level count going well into the hundreds. Even if it does eventually end, there's still Heroic mode and multiplayer to keep players busy.

OVERALL: 8.5/10
Going for only 500 Wii Points, Defend Your Castle is a steal. It's simple gameplay is easy enough for anyone to understand, but the later levels are sure to keep the attention of even the fastest player. Sure, it may not be the deepest of the experiences available on WiiWare, but it's addictive and a great time-waster. Just make sure you don't accidentally play for too long and end up late for an appointment!

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The Duck Has Spoken.


Anonymous said...

How do you get to the level with the dragon has a boss? and is there an endo the levels of endless hordes of people? Thank U @

Anonymous said...

That was me

Anonymous said...

Sweet Sixteen