Knight Guarding the Hen House
It had to happen eventually. So many iOS developers are riding the Castle Defense wave these days, and new ideas are running so short, that a group of combat-trained and magic-wielding civilians has arisen to defend – get this – the golden chicken that they worship. To be fair, the chicken used to be a goddess before an ill encounter with a divine rival, and Castle Defense fans are liable to have a blast becoming Defender of Diosa (Out Now, $0.99) if they stick with it past the first few battles. Sigma Game Ltd. appears to have insufficient resources when it comes to translation, but they make up for that – and some unfortunate interface issues – by offering gameplay quirks that should catch the interest of genre vets.
Suffice it to say Defender of Diosa contains many of the Castle Defense staples, so I’ll gloss over the usual special attack meters and soldier class upgrades between battles. Beyond that, genre vets will find this one lacking at first glance: it sacrifices some of the strategic depth we’ve seen in the most complex titles because it’s played from a pure sidescrolling perspective and a specific number of soldiers are assigned to each level rather than deployed at player discretion.
Scratch the surface, however, and you’ll find some intriguing gameplay mechanics at its core. What make Defender of Diosa stand out are its drag-and-drop system for soldier movement and an on-the-fly class change system, which has the player constantly re-outfitting individual troops so they can serve the role most needed at any given moment. To keep the golden hen’s small handful of defenders alive, the player must drag them into a rest facility below the battlefield when their health meters run low. Dragging troops into the neighboring enchantment vault, where they can acquire temporary super abilities, might also be worth chancing prolonged absences from the fray. Once the player has three or four soldiers to work with the magic of the game’s design becomes apparent: all those resource management decisions Castle Defense fans are used to have essentially been traded in for the more visceral acts of troop rotation and class reassignment. Enemy strategies are surprisingly varied and sure to keep the player on his or her toes!
Defender of Diosa‘s formula works well, but it’s incredibly risky in execution because so many critical functions begin with tapping on a soldier. A quick tap turns the soldier one way or the other, which is useful for attacking enemies from behind. Tapping and holding summons the soldier’s class change menu; tapping and swiping around the screen moves that soldier around the field as the player desires. You might guess that things can get mixed up at the “tap” stage, and you’d be absolutely right! The game engine and the player aren’t always of the same mind, and it’s difficult to even wrap one’s mind around how this might be solved given the game’s touch-centric interface. My difficulty with the user interface diminished as I got a better feel for how long a tap should last for each of the aforementioned functions, but this is still a turn-off that makes the game fall short of the pick-up-and-play controls it might have achieved otherwise.
Still, it’s easy to defend this one for the depth of content it provides in addition to its attempt at delivering fresh gameplay. The bulk of the player’s time will be spent in Adventure Mode, which consists of 41 battles spread over a sprawling world map. This can be played on two difficulty levels, and further challenge can be found in its Quest Mode.
Defender of Diosa easily proves entertaining on an aesthetic level, packed with a wide variety of uniquely behaved soldier classes, special attacks, and marvelous musical accompaniment. The player’s first time through Adventure Mode should last three to four hours on normal difficulty.