At this point, it really seems like there are more tower defense games than there are potential customers to buy them. They seem to be an easy game for most novice studios to churn out, and there aren’t too many tweaks you need to make to what is already a wildly successful formula. In the time it takes Google to finish putting together the search results for “tower defense games,” six more are made and none of them are any good. It really is close to becoming a saturated genre, and with so little innovation coming along it is hard to recommend any new tower defense games as you’ve probably played them already. With all that being said, Castle Doombad is a new tower defense game that really deserves some attention if you have some interest in the genre. It might not really have much in terms of innovation and there are certainly more challenging games on the market, but this is a perfect little distillation of everything you like about tower defense games in the simplest, purest terms.
You play as the evil Dr. Lord Evilstein coming off of his recent successful kidnapping of a princess. Unfortunately, heros have no respect for property rights and keep on storming your castle to try and rescue her. As such, you must defend your castle by placing a variety of traps and other impediments to slow the heroes progress and prevent them from recapturing the princess you’ve rightfully stolen. Through forty five levels of increasing difficulty you must protect your castle from knights, Rambo impersonators, and even superheroes as they storm your castle, destroy your traps, and completely ruin your upholstery.
The game is best described as a tower defense game, albeit a simplified and scaled down version of what you are probably used to.The game plays out on a flat map, with the heroes moving from floor to floor going up ladders and through doorways. You can place traps on any acceptable space, but there is essentially only one path for the heroes to take to get to the princess. Because of this, some of the aspects of strategy that are typically present in a tower defense game are largely absent here and as long as you aren’t dumb enough to place a trap somewhere the heroes aren’t walking to pretty much every location has the same efficacy. This isn’t to say that challenge is completely absent from the title because later levels can absolutely run you over if you don’t plan well, but most of the game feels a bit like a class in Tower Defense 101.
There are a wide variety of traps to chose from, all off which can be upgraded to improve damage or attack speed or add some other special features. Most spaces allow you to place a trap on the floor, the wall, and the ceiling with certain traps specifically designed for each. As you defeat enemies, occasionally they drop money which you can use to buy the aforementioned upgrades, new traps, or extra slots so you can carry more traps into battle. Traps come in either the automatic or manual variety, and while automatic traps will do their work on their own, you’ll have to keep an eye on the manual ones as they’ll need to be tapped to get them to work. There are also minions, which have no placement restrictions and will wander around on a floor and attack (or heal) whoever and whatever they see.
There is a nice variety in trap type, and the traps themselves tend to have an interesting design that leads itself to the comic and lighthearted tone the game seeks to achieve. Traps range from large boots that give your enemies a swift kick to faulty air conditioning ducts that slow their progress to treadmills that heroes just can’t resist running on. Each trap costs a certain amount of scream energy to use, which you harvest from the captured princess throughout the course of a level. You can build supplemental scream generators to get more of that scream juice, and you probably should because you’ll want to get down as many traps as possible. There are a lot to use here, and each of them can be effective in the right scenarios. It is fun to play around with each for a while, but honestly it becomes easy to use the same set of traps for most of the game without much need for optimization. Early on, I found floor spikes, faulty air conditioning units, and acid drippers all put on the same square was an excellent recipe for dead enemies, and putting them in multiple squares in a row was basically a get to the next level free ticket.
While I’ve done a bit of complaining so far about the lack of a real challenge and how easy it is to get through most of the game with the same set of traps, it probably is worth saying right now that in spite of all of this the game is still a lot of fun. Sure, it might play a bit like an intro tower defense game, but there is a lot of charm here. The presentation is great, and there is a nice bit of humor infused into the game. Handsome knights stroll in on their undersized ponies, and Dr. Lord Evilstein chides you if you put to many minions on the same floor as he doesn’t want to clean up after them. There is frantic, fast paced fun to be had as you quickly try to prepare your defenses against the incoming hordes. Each wave adds new levels to the castle, and possible new entry points that you have to defend. Most invaders start by coming through the front door, but eventually they’ll start putting up ladders to get through the windows, giving you multiple points you need to defend and prepare for.
The enemies themselves are fine but could have used a bit more variety. You have your generic knight mooks that are easy to kill and flood your castle by the bunch. They can be upgraded with shields or helmets, but for the most part aren’t enough of a concern if you are competent. Adventurer types will storm your castle with wrenches and destroy your floor traps, and others still can take aim at things you put on the ceiling. Unfortunately, enemy AI isn’t exactly the best and will at times go out of their way to destroy a trap that isn’t really threatening anyone and adds time to their trip. I really don’t expect much when it comes to enemy type in tower defense games, and for the most part one horde is the same as the next. Still, there really are only a handful of different types, and it would’ve been nice if the same creativity that went into the traps went into the enemy design as well.
Minor issues aside, this really is the perfect tower defense game for the iOS. Traps are placed by simply tapping where you want them to go and levels are the perfect length for little bite sized play sessions (which can easily turn into a couple of hours if you aren’t careful). There is an endless mode to unlock for people looking for something a bit meatier, and challenge levels with difficult layouts for those looking for more of a challenge. The dreaded microtransactions rear their ugly head, but for once they are truly optional and are really only for the impatient. You can buy more ingame money to help you level up and unlock new traps if you really need to, but money is dropped in the game all the time and you get some for completing levels. I did go back and do a little grinding from time to time to help me unlock new equipment, but it never becomes excessive and as I enjoyed playing the game it was never really much of a chore.
This is about as casual as a tower defense game gets and seems to have been designed for the individual that found Plants Vs. Zombies too complex. However, while this is a fairly basic and simple tower defense game, sometimes you can find brilliance in simplicity, and Castle Doombad comes very close to achieving just that. I have a feeling that the most hardcore admirers of the genre might turn their nose up at this game, scoffing that such a casual experience is beneath them and their considerable expertise. For everyone else, however, this is either a great introduction to the genre or a nice little diversion that is high on fun and replayability. Being bad never felt so good.