Kingdom Rush Conjures Up Cartoon Quirkiness and Style

Posted: December 21, 2011 in Tower Defense

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  They could obviously say that about humor as well since I’ve had my share of jokes that have fallen flat…not many, but some.  People tend to have a love/hate relationship with tower defense games.  Maybe it’s the volume of them in the iTunes store or just the seemingly business-as-usual fare that seems to be the norm for the genre.  Whatever it is, you’ll likely end up in the love camp with Kingdom Rush, a fixed-path tower defense offering from Ironhide Games.  Equal parts of humor, fun and addictiveness, Kingdom Rush brings style to orc annihilation.

Location, location, location may be the most important things in real estate, but in the iTunes store, it’s all about presentation, presentation, presentation.  One of the things that strike you right away is the cartoony feel of the Kingdom Rush.  I’ve seen this approach in other games, but Kingdom Rush has that special intangible that should resonate with many.  In some ways, the game has an almost Monty Python-esque feel to it because of the humor and the great soundtrack.  Plus, the occasional hairy ogre, but more on that later.

The game offers 13 stages with 3 modes for each: Campaign, Heroic and Iron, and two game modes: Easy and Normal.  After you complete each stage in Campaign Mode, stars are awarded based on the number of survivors.  As you earn stars, you can go on a Castles ‘R Us shopping spree to peruse and purchase 36 upgrades to further customize your towers and defenses.  (Sorry, fins not included).  These upgrades include fire intensity, soldier toughness, artillery upgrades and precision among others.  Heroic and Iron are similar to skirmish modes where you deal with multiple attack waves or face certain defense limitations.  One nice feature is the 3 save slots so you can creatively pillage and defend to your heart’s content.

Speaking of defenses, the genre is called tower defense for a reason.  In Kingdom Rush, there are 4 tower types—Archer towers, Mages Guilds, Barracks and Artillery—along with 8 tower upgrades ranging from Barbarians and Mages to Musketeers and Rangers.  There are also 18 towers abilities that you can choose to add including Poison, Sniper Shot, and Teleport.

Of course, the big draw will be the enemies and you won’t feel shortchanged here.  There are 30 enemies that includes just about everyone from a Lord of the Rings convention.  Orcs, yetis, ogres, necromancers and demon dogs are just some of the guests attending the party.  If you have tough time keeping up with them all, Kingdom Rush includes a Baddies Encyclopedia if you will that describes the strengths and weaknesses of each monster…shoe size not included.

Something else worth mentioning are the special non-tower weapons that you have to access to for a limited time.  Reinforcements and Rain of Fire are powers with timer that appear during the course of a campaign.  During a campaign, these powers become available every 10 seconds after the last time you deployed them.  Reinforcements call up additional troops, while Rain of Fire brings, well, let’s just say an umbrella won’t help.

The gameplay is what you’d expect from a typical fixed-path tower defense game.  Along each path are spots for placing towers, and once placed, the attacks wave begin once you tap the Start Battle button.  With a colorful forest or snow-covered range as the backdrop, Kingdom Rush does a terrific job in creating a fun and engaging experience.  Really, the best part of Kingdom Rush is the visuals.  In fact, as strange as it sounds, the attacks are a joy to watch.  Whether its mages dropping magical chutzpah on crazed ogres, or troops in hand-to-hand combat with demon dogs, it’s a visual treat.  On that note, the sound effects are definitely worth mentioning.  When you activate Reinforcements for example, someone actually yells out “Reinforcements!”

Another nice touch comes when you tap on certain defenders.  A small pop-up appears at the bottom of the screen with the name of the defender and his strength.  Of course, don’t get too attached because your defender will likely get torn apart by an ogre soon enough.

The AI feels pretty balanced with waves increasing in frequency and size as you progress.  And, you can always go back and tweak the difficulty level within each campaign.  Early on, a typical campaign can take about 5 minutes to complete, but as you progress and attack waves increase, campaigns can take much longer.  I had one clock in at 25 minutes, so the omission of a fast forward button is sorely missed here.

As campaigns are completed, a map keeps track of your progress.  I did notice an occasional issue where my campaign victory wasn’t saved and I had to redo the campaign.  But, otherwise, the game ran smoothly on my iPad.

Kingdom Rush doesn’t technically bring anything new or even evolutionary to the tower defense genre.  But, Kingdom Rush does put the fun back with a creatively terrifically presented game.  Whatever style of humor, the cartoon-like characters on both sides and the balanced gameplay make Kingdom Rush a must-have for tower defense aficionados and a great experience for new ones.

Albie Meter: 5 Stars (fun, highly entertaining tower defense; plenty of levels, variety and customization; balanced AI with replay value; cartoon visuals and soundtrack should appeal to everyone)

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