I’ve spoken before about how tower defense games are one of the few genres to work seamlessly with tablet controls due to only requiring one imprecise finger to manage everything. Further experience has proven my initial beliefs correct. Kingdom Rush is a tower defense game that first appeared as a flash game in 2011, though I played the 2013 Android version.
Kingdom Rush is more difficult than most tower defense games due to deliberately low funds, the great differences between the structures you can build, the need for judicious use of items (earned by playing and/or failing levels), and the proper preparation through selecting the right hero for the monster waves of a particular level.
This game’s hordes of enemies are utterly overwhelming even on normal difficulty. Build lots of archers to deal with flying foes? That’s fine, but now you don’t have enough damage for armored enemies. How about armor-piercing wizard towers? Nope, they’re crappy against the regular piles of weak creatures. How about bomb launchers? Those are good for seemingly everything… but don’t even target flying foes, which will appear in great numbers when they do show their faces.
Relax, it’s not as frustrating as it sounds. The game might try its hardest to beat you into the dirt, but like the best hard games, it’s fair. You need to build the right defenses in the right proportions in the right locations in order to survive and the game will punish you for being lazy. If you’re faced with a great menagerie of enemies (and you will be), you need to consider when and where they’ll arrive in order to prepare for them. The defending units prove to be extremely useful in slowing the tide, especially when paired with a beefy hero unit.
But the same strategy will not work for every map. You’ll probably have to play every level several times to develop the best method for fighting your enemies. Sometimes a few strong towers will be best, but frequently you need to spread out, especially in the optional challenge levels that give you limited upgrades. And which of the many (actually unique) heroes would be best for your situation? Kingdom Rush will not hold your hand and it certainly won’t ask you for real-life money to get extra stuff in the game.
Don’t forget items; you might need to temporarily freeze a huge ogre or get that extra 500 gold at the start so your defenses aren’t thinner than toilet paper. And should you pump all your skill points into spells so your meteors don’t bounce off even the weakest monsters, or would they be better spent in toughening up your guards? Or some of both? And then there’s the time-honored tower defense tradition of scrambling to deal with a final wave by hastily selling everything near the front and building/upgrading everything near the exit to get those last few stragglers. You’ll have to put your mind to good use if you want to get anywhere higher than weak baby difficulty.
Tower defense games don’t have to be dumbed-down real-time strategy, nor do they have to suffer from pay-to-win disease. Kingdom Rush might look generic as can be, but it’s smarter and more stimulating than most of its peers. Highly recommended.
Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know! is a 2013 Gauntlet clone developed by WayForward Technologies (famous for their good animation). I played the PC version.
I’m supposed to say something like “join all your favorite characters like Finn™ and Jake™ as they journey through the dungeon on behalf of Princess Bubblegum™ on a quest to discover the secret of the mysteriously escaping prisoners” but the creators of the game beat reviewers and marketers to it by mocking the paucity of the plot’s importance in the title. Unfortunately, the game is not a clever takedown of of anything; it’s quite tedious and unfunny, unlike the show.
The game consists of a hub world where you can change characters and buy upgrades and a 100-level dungeon of randomly-generated rooms. The dungeons are randomly-generated but nonetheless quite bland, containing simple box levels with no surprises. A lot of potential was wasted here, as the repetitive nature of the dungeons could have been used for a grand adventure through many locations.
The seemingly large variety of characters exists to mask the overall shallowness of the game. Some are short-range but stronger and some are long-range but weaker. Finn can equip more accessories. Marceline can float over stuff. But none of this matters because it’s so easy regardless of your choice; enemy attack patterns are extremely basic and many of them can simply be ignored while you search for loot and the exit. You also get a super meter that either demolishes all on-screen enemies or does stuff like freezing time that further renders the game easily completable for those with the patience to go through 100 nearly identical levels.
Movement speed is slower than a Call of Duty protagonist swimming through pancake syrup and serves to make the game unnecessarily lethargic. This doesn’t change the difficulty level because most enemies are just as pokey as you and are easily stunlocked with your regular attacks anyway. Bosses are too simply defeated, too; I might be a huge nerd with decades of gaming experience, but if I can beat the bosses on my first try without getting hit, your game is too easy. This game is probably meant for six-year-olds and not for the disaffected college students who actually watch the show. According to a FAQ I looked at, there’s a harder dungeon after completing the main quest, but why not give us a difficulty toggle in the options or something? It wouldn’t be hard to reduce the number of hits you can survive or something.
Despite all my gripes, Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know! is better than most media franchise tie-ins, in the sense that it’s actually playable. If you’ve never played a Gauntlet game or you want to screw around with friends or you want to hear fourth-wall breaking quips from John DiMaggio, it might be worth your time. But it’s not good enough. It shows a certain amount of love for the original animated series, but their resources were clearly limited.