Defend Your Castle (Browser Flash Game, iOS, and WiiWare)

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An army surrounds your entire fortress nation, the enemies are at the gates. As they marshal their forces you must make use of your castle’s ancient guardian, the mysterious cursor spirit. It has the ability to manipulate things in reality, sending them flying into the air and then crashing back down. Otherwise unprepared for the assault you must manage and build more defenses using the blood of your enemies to fuel your war machines. — By which I mean I made this all up in order to justify the rules of a flash game.

History

Defend your Castle was made by XGen Studios, a Canadian indie game studio lead by one Skye Boyes. Fully founded in 2005 after Boyes’ browser games began to accumulate acclaim. Skye also took this time to drop out of the Computer Science field. XGen would go on to attempt to port Machinarium to WiiWare, an enterprise which would ultimately fail due to WiiWare’s resolution and memory limitations. Xgen would go on to release an updated multiplayer version of Defend Your Castle to WiiWare.

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I would say that it looks pretty nifty… but a little too messy.

Defend your Castle was fully released in 2003. It’s competition was Samorost (Browser Flash game), .hack//infection Part 1 (PS2), and Call of Duty (PC).

Experiences

One of my favorite things in games is creating a perpetual motion machine. I know that sounds weirdly paradoxical, ‘your favorite part of a game is the part where you don’t have to play it anymore?’ And the answer is, yeah kind of. I love the point when the castle becomes this sort of self sustaining engine. With enough archers to defend the gates and enough engineers to repair it I kind of don’t have to do anything anymore. I let it go and watch the points roll in. There eventually comes a point where even the engine gets clogged and overwhelmed by the sheer number of attackers. But that just reveals the experience of watching entropy take its claim.

Gameplay

Defend Your Castle is a point and click browser game in which an array of stick people invade from the left side of the screen. Using the cursor you can move and manipulate them, sending them hurtling into the sky where they eventually land in a bloody fanfare. Every level they send more enemies toward the castle and eventually send different and more advanced enemies.

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Ah, the days of the early castle before things spiral out of control.

Every one you destroy awards you with points — not dollars, gold, gems, or any other form of currency… just points — and these points can be spent to repair and upgrade your castle. Allowing you to build building like the Temple which allow you to brainwash — I MEAN — convert your enemies into loyal minions — I MEAN — citizens who can be put to work as archers who occasionally dispatch enemies automatically. Or to the mana pool where they can become wizards capable of casting devastating and useful spells.

The Gush

The sound design is really good. From the way the ambient music clashes with the sound of stick figures falling to their doom. To the annoyed plop they make when they survive a fall or the bizarre cackling laughter of the death spell. It all just sounds good.

To me, this game is all about that point the castle doesn’t need me to babysit it anymore. I kickstarted the engine and now it’ll run until it’s out of gas. The real challenge of the game is figure out how to reach that point.

The Kvetch

Trained archers, engineers, and wizards take a toll in the form of upkeep costs. Every day they cost points, and that’s fine. The problem is that you need enough points to cover their costs at the beginning of your day, not at the end. If you train too many archers then you’ll get charged for upkeep costs, and then lose all the archers you couldn’t afford to pay with the points you had at the beginning of the day. I don’t know how many you lose, I’m not sure if it’s proportional, but they still charge you the cost of the people who leave. It’s really frustrating and it can kill a good run if you spend too much on wall upgrades buildings.

Escalating enemies are the only thing this game has in terms of a difficulty curve. Now, the guys with the battering rams, they’re cool. The problem comes with the giants. They can only be slowed down with clicks and cannot be flung so you either have to wait for a lucky arrow to dispatch them or have a mana pool to cast the instant death spell. If you don’t have the mana pool by the point they arrive — and you, the player have no idea when that will happen — then you’re basically screwed.

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They also do a lot of damage, as you can imagine.

Speaking of different enemies. There’s one that sort of rubs me the wrong way. There’s a suicide bomber enemy because this was 2003 and we all thought it was cool to be edgy. But the thing that really bothers me about them is that every other stick figure is white with a black outline and the suicide bomber is all black. They’re apparently referred to as suicide ninjas but it just seems really off-putting and weird. Why are these reported ninja blowing themselves up instead of sneaking in? Why was it necessary to visually differentiate them in this way?

The Verdict

First things first, I am SUPER nostalgia blind for this one. I’m certain that the only reason I went back to it is because I’ve played it before. I’d be genuinely curious what a newcomer thought about the game, playing it for the first time, because it’s really rudimentary. That being said, for the flash games of the time it’s a real powerhouse which comes at the great price of completely free. There are far worse ways of burning an afternoon than playing this. And the WiiWare version looks fantastic, I’d really love to go a round or too waggling wii-motes with some friends.

Next Week: Madness Interactive.

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