Castle Doombad iOS Review: The Problem with Tower Defense Games

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castle-doombad-ios-review-everything-wrong-with-tower-defense

Castle Doombad is a tower defense game wherein you are the villain. Your castle, minions, and evil devices are run by the screams of princesses. Your goal is to prevent the heroes of the world from saving the princess, so you can continue to hatch your wicked schemes.

I should have enjoyed this more.

The animation for Castle Doombad is fluid and characters bound along to keep the game looking active — as you must, given the static nature of tower defense. The colorful characters and cartoony design also help us bond with our villain. You get so wrapped up in stopping the cute characters from reaching the princess that you don’t think twice about showering them with acid. Of course, even the designs for the heroes are clever, with core archetypes represented (e.g. there’s the Knight, the Indiana Jones, the Superhero, the Rambo, etc.).

But despite the gorgeous visuals, the game didn’t hold my attention for long, suffering from the same problem as all tower defense games: once you have a strategy that works, you’re unstoppable.

The first levels are engaging because you’re barely winning. The tools you start out with are just enough to get you to the next stage. There’s an element of exploration as you examine potential traps to unlock or tools to upgrade. You strategize where your coinage will do the most good… but then once you have your set, you’re set. For instance, I upgraded the Scream GeneratorFloor Spikes, Overactive A/C and Acid Dropper. For good measure, I had some minions, but rarely needed them. The A/C slowed down my foils while the spikes struck from below and the acid struck from above. And this strategy got me through the first two castles without any trouble; my interest waning faster than the Wachowski siblings’ careers.

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Video Game Problems: Trap Inequality & Death Animation Deficiency

Part of the problem lies within the “traps” since they are not created equal. Some traps (like the Treadmill) only affect one oncoming hero at a time. This is useless since heroes don’t come at you one at a time, they come in herds; swarms. This halves the amount of useful traps! The only thing that would make buying those traps worthwhile would be if those traps had particular animations so audacious that I’d purchase them just to watch what happens. For instance, if there was a Wedgie Snapper that pulled underwear up and over the hero’s head, so they walked backwards through the castle blindly until their underwear snapped, I’d buy that trap, but alas, such animation does not exist — and this is my main gripe with the game.

The animation is so spectacular that I wanted more! Call me a sadistic psychopath, but if I’m dropping acid on oncoming heroes, I want to see them dissolve. If spikes are rising from the floor, I want to see the heroes impaled. I mean, you’re playing a villain in an Adult Swim game… show me cartoon violence!

Because the death animation is the same for all characters (i.e. collapse and blink out of existence), the traps aren’t all that varied. You either have above-traps, below-traps, or status-inducing traps. Once you realize this, the excitement of “all” the different devices wears off.

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If the traps caused different death animations, that would be enough to keep me playing. Hell, it could even be factored into the gameplay. Maybe enough knights get impaled on my spikes that the heroes now have a bridge (of human corpses) to pass unscathed. Maybe the acid dropper eventually eats away at the ceiling it’s attached to and shatters on the floor. For that matter, why not have my acid dropper negatively affect the floor traps below it? Why not have repair minions for this very purpose?

This is the major problem with Castle Doombad. Structurally, they have all the elements in place for a great game, but there’s no finish. The animations are stupendous and the idea is imaginative, but there’s not a lot of variety in gameplay. Take the level variation for instance.

Castle Doombad had the ‘bread crumbs’ of level variation as they did try to make me forego the Acid Dropper by adding chandeliers to certain levels (which prevent you from hanging a ceiling trap)… but the problem is, the chandeliers were never abundant enough to make a difference. Similarly, the third castle tries to change up the format by making your tower into an underground lair… but this doesn’t change your strategy, just the direction the characters move in.

Long story short, Castle Doombad looks incredible, but lacks gameplay gumption. If you’re looking for an iOS game to whip out occasionally when you’re looking to kill 10 minutes, it’s one of the better options, but if you’re looking for a game that makes you captures your attention, look elsewhere.

And for the record, “Capturing your attention” is not the same as “Addictive”; if something’s addictive, you CAN’T stop thinking about it, but if something has “captured your attention,” you CAN stop thinking about it, but don’t want to.

For more iOS reviews, visit Derek Hobson’s Article Archive

 

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