Release Date: May 12, 2008
With the recent introduction of Nintendo's new downloadable games service, WiiWare, there came an opportunity for small-time developers to do what no other console yet offers. With the Xbox 360 and the PS3, you can create smaller-minded games focusing on quick gameplay, but you really couldn't do that with the added bonus of motion controls until now. XGen Studios seemed to take this opportunity to heart, as they quickly announced and released Defend Your Castle, a popular Flash game made available on the Wii with some surprisingly fun motion controls and quirky graphics.
The first thing you should probably know about Defend Your Castle is that there is already a fully functional version of this game that you can play at this very moment. It was originally a freeware Flash game that was posted on a few Web sites and, while you may find yourself asking what the point is of paying for a game that is free, it should be noted that the Wii version of this game is still very cheap and offers a certain sort of charm that can't be found in the freeware Flash title. Bottom line, Defend Your Castle is a fun title that is more than worth your 500 Wii points, if you like this style of game.
Defend Your Castle is an arcade title, which means that it doesn't have a story line, and it is lacking in any sort of depth that you would otherwise expect from most video games. The premise is very simple: You have a castle, and there is a marauding horde of stickmen and monsters that want to destroy it, and it's your job to stop them before they accomplish that feat. The way you do this is quite unique and can be a lot of fun, once you get the hang of it. As the enemies make for your castle, it is your duty to use the Wiimote to grab them and throw them up into the air as high as you can so that when they fall, they die. While that may sound a bit grisly, I assure you they are nothing but stickmen and therefore probably don't feel any pain. As an added bonus, each enemy stickman you obliterate will earn you a certain amount of points, which can later be spent on upgrades that will help you in your battle.
Speaking of upgrades, as you earn more and more points through the stages, you'll be able to use them to fortify your castle, add archers and wizards to your team, and even build a pit of conversion. Fortifying your castle is a fairly simple mechanic: Spend more on the walls, and they won't break as quickly. The archers and wizards work a bit differently from each other. Should you decide to invest heavily in archers, you'll notice certain enemies falling dead on the battlefield, and the number of archers you actually have will have a direct effect on how many enemies die from them. If you decide to invest heavily in wizards, on the other hand, you'll be granted access to a variety of spells that are linked to your directional pad. They don't do anything too fancy, however, and the best one is an eraser that makes a single enemy disappear. Finally, you have the pit of conversion, which does exactly what it sounds like: converts enemy troops into your own troops, who can then be assigned as archers or wizards. Finally, should your walls really take a beating during a specific session, you can also spend your points on repairing them.
Like I said before, though, Defend Your Castle isn't just about the gameplay per se. If you really want, you can play the game for free online right now. What really makes the title so unique and fresh is the awesome graphics style that XGen Studios decided to pursue. The entire game has a "construction paper" feel to it. You castle, for example, looks like it was cut right out of a few pieces of gray construction paper, and the same can be said for the clouds that pass overhead. In addition to that, all of the enemies are pencil-drawn stick figures or poorly drawn monsters, and while this may sound kind of silly in this day and age of modern gaming, I assure you that it's quite nice to see. What topped it off for me, however, was when I finally realized just exactly what my pointer was: a bread bag clip. Overall, it gives a very unique feel to the title that absolutely can't be found in the Flash game.
The audio also has a unique feel to it, but rather than being a fun twist on tradition, I found the audio to be annoying. First off, there is no music at all, so don't get your hopes up for any sort of cheery or funny bebopping. The only sounds you ever really hear are the whines and grunts as you pick up and destroy the masses of enemies at your doorstep. Even those noises aren't very good, though, as they can get quite annoying after about 30 minutes of repetition. While the graphics are very fresh and fun to look at, the sound doesn't hold the same weight.
Finally, one of the best things that XGen Studios could have possibly done is added a quick drop-in/drop-out multiplayer. At anytime when you feel like you are getting a bit stressed out at your current castle situation, you can simply call over a friend to jump right into the game. No waiting, no hassle, no starting over — it's as simple as turning on one of the Wiimotes. You can do this with up to four players, and believe me when I say this game can become a lot of fun when you have four people playing at the same time.
Overall, Defend Your Castle was a fun romp and certainly an admirable attempt at making a fresh experience on such a new service. For that, I certainly applaud XGen on delivering a fresh take on what can now be considered a timeless Web classic. Now, if every developer can put as much time and effort into quick, pick-up games such as this for the WiiWare, then we may just be in for some good times in the future of WiiWare.