Usually games based on movies are how can I put this politely? Most of the time they’re steaming piles of digital dung dressed up with fancy marketing, so imagine my surprise when I found Army of Darkness Defense for the iPhone and iPod Touch was actually a really, really fun game.
Although the game is based on the cult classic, given that the movie came out almost twenty years ago, it’s not as though this app was slapped together as part of a summer blockbuster tie-in. Instead, Backflip Studios has cleverly taken Army of Darkness and used it as a lighthearted framework for their genuinely decent castle defense game. If you’ve never seen the movie, don’t worry; a little intro movie will tell you all you need to know, though fans will be delighted by the sultry sounds of Bruce Campbell setting the scene. Once you’re in, you get Ash and his boomstick, and starting just with those, you eventually build an army to defend your castle from swarms of evil Deadites, just like in the film.
The result is a classic castle defense game combined with a funny and well-thought out homage. Gameplay is a basic 2-D side-scrolling style castle defense. Each level sends waves of Deadites and Ash and his army must defend the Necronomicon, the Book of the Dead, against them. If either Ash or the book go down, you lose.
Thankfully, Ash doesn’t have to face them alone. A blacksmith works relentlessly throughout each level to provide you with a steady iron supply, and you use this iron to purchase combat units. You start out with low level peasants, but over time, you unlock new and mightier warriors. As you progress through the level, you can add more and more warriors to your army, but limited resources mean you are always having to strike a balance between quality and quantity. Variety among your units is also important if you’re going to take out the baddies effectively.
Ash is also a vital combat unit, and he also comes with powerful special attacks that you can unleash every once in awhile. All other units move forward automatically to attack the nearest Deadite, but you can move Ash around through a simple two-button interface to take out Deadites or avoid their attacks. As you progress through the game, new attacks are learned, and you can upgrade special attacks and units between levels with gold you collect from defeated enemies. Enemies will also drop extra iron occasionally to supplement your blacksmith supply. You can also choose to upgrade your blacksmith during combat to have him output iron faster, but this can get expensive and risky.
Although the enemies aren’t super-varied and combat can become repetitive after awhile, I really loved the extensive upgrade system and intuitive controls. I especially loved the lack of micro-management that occasionally plagues these types of games. It made Army of Darkness Defense perfect for snack-sized gaming sessions, although I confess, I had so much fun, I had a hard time putting it down.
The visuals are rendered in a fun cartoon style, but all the sounds are sampled directly from the film. Initially it’s fun to hear all the original quotes, but they never really let up, and you quickly go into ear fatigue under their relentless onslaught. Naturally, there are also a ton of achievements to be earned, as well as full Game Center integration.
Bottom line: Army of Darkness Defense is a rare treat. It couples the cult appeal of a fantastic film with a solid and entertaining game. Fans and non-fans should snap this one up quickly, as it’s free for a limited time!
Here is a video demo of the Army of Darkness Defense app on the iPhone
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