Fresh from its success on Wiiware is Defend Your Castle from XGen Studios, now for the iPhone. Not to be confused with the Tower Defense genre, this game falls in to the somewhat new ‘Castle Defense’ genre which is something we’ll likely be seeing much more of on this platform if the success of this game and Stickwars is any portent. The premise is nice and simple; defend your castle from the invading horde. Fortunately, you have a number of weapons to bring to bear in support of your heroic defense and brother you’re gonna need ‘em.
What invariably strikes your first and foremost is the art style. It’s basically 3rd grade quality…but delightfully on purpose. It’s also hyperreal in that very simplicity. For example, the stickmen attackers look exactly like crayon-drawn stickmen come to life and clouds rolling by look exactly like cotton balls glued to pipe cleaners. It brings back memories of your own childhood forays into the art world. So on the right side of the screen stands your castle, drawn just like little you might have many years ago. From the left comes the charging horde, fully intent on breaking down the gate and storming you and your castle into oblivion. To stop them you have multiple weapons but the first and most trusted is your forefinger. Touch and drag invaders and release from on high to drop them to their doom. Better yet, flick them like ants and they’ll shoot into the air or ricochet around, ultimately meeting the same fate. Just be sure you get enough vertical on ‘em as anything less and they pick themselves right back up and resume the charge. Your castle is certainly not defenseless! The first thing you buy with your points is the Pit of Conversion where invaders can be dropped to convert to your side and put to work manning the tower defenses which come in 3 varieties: masons, archers and mages. Masons repair damage to your castle, archers shoot stuff in the face with prejudice and mages can cast 3 spells. The mage spells are done in the same careful style so the eraser is literally that little pink trapezoidal eraser you had in school (which erases 1 enemy from the screen), the spray can sort of ’spray-deletes’ a single enemy and the bomb (by far the most useful) can obliterate most anything in its blast radius. As you convert more and more of the horde you assign them to one of the above tower defenses for extra efficacy and advancement, for example once you have 100 mages you get the bomb spell. Another important defense is the ability to periodically send out a bomber whom you can detonate at any time for maximum destruction.
The horde comes in 4 varieties (that I’ve seen anyway): the stickman who just charges up and pounds on your castle, the battering ram stickman who carries part of a popsicle stick for extra damage, the bottle cap boss who tries to kick the door down and the ominous catapult which lobs some kinda blob projectile right over the castle walls. The enemies come in waves and you’re given a chance to spend your points on upgrades at the end of each before taking on the next. Thoughtfully, you’re able to save your game after every wave and even maintain multiple saves. Special mention goes to the sound fx which appear to be by one of the dev’s using nothing more than their mouth and a mic.
This game is lovingly made and if you don’t smile when playing it then check your pulse; you may be a robot. My main gripe with this game is the lack of interaction with your castle. For something so vital to the gameplay, you never even touch it; it just sits there while all the action goes on around it. Mage spells are cast from separate onscreen icons, archers fire automatically and masons auto-repair. It would be nice to have more going on with the castle itself such as a little stick archer on the tower sending clothyard shafts toward the enemy, a stick mage waving his hands wildly when spells are cast and a stick mason hammering away on repairs. Your castle does get bigger as you increase the wall strength but it’s amazingly subtle and you almost don’t even notice. Also, there’s simply not enough upgrades available and you end up very quickly with nothing to spend your (gobs of) points on but castle repairs and wall strength which can get boring. This segues into my other gripe which is that once the game builds up and you have the basic upgrades it becomes very repetitive with no end in sight (not sure the game even has an end). Worth mentioning also is your forefinger will become very, very fatigued playing this game; so much so that in later levels I really could only play 1 or 2 at a time before having to quit out and rest my weary digit.
So in the end this game is lots of fun and worth the asking price with the caveat that there’s definitely room for more ’stuff’. Maybe a couple new attacker types (how about a stick man brandishing dual paper clips or a dude who slings sharpened pencils), more interaction with the castle, more upgrades, spells and so on. Also the Wiiware version has a cooperative play mode so something like that would be great here as well. Even though it’s a bit repetitive at the later stages (I played up to level 40 on normal mode for the review but note there’s also a heoric setting which I’m sure is nukin’ futs) it’s still great pickup play for when you have 10-15 min to kill.
Another thing that’s certainly important to some is this game contains no blood; the violence is all just mild cartoon stuff and it’s overall a very kid-friendly game.
version reviewed – 1.0
reviewd on – iPhone 3G 8GB 2.2.1
iTunes music support – no