With yesterday's launch of WiiWare, the Wii has finally entered the world of downloadable original games. And while the launch lineup may be a bit meager, numbers-wise, there's definitely some quality to be found among the titles. Take, for example, Defend Your Castle, which I ended up with thanks to the generosity of a friend (thanks, Will!). At first glance it may look like nothing more than an upgraded Flash game (which it is), but just under the surface of this seemingly simple looking game lies surprising depth, and a strangely addictive experience to boot.
The game seems simple enough. You have a castle that you must defend from oncoming invaders by grabbing the little guys with the Wii Remote and tossing them up into the air, causing them to crash down to their doom. But complete a day, and at night you'll be able to upgrade your castle with all sorts of useful things using points you earn by defeating enemies, from archers to masons and even wizards. Doing this allows you access to magic spells, more powerful methods of fending off the ever larger hordes of button-headed invaders, a "Pit of Conversion" (read: bucket of blue paint) that allows you to bring enemies over to your side, and even a self-repairing castle. Since the game never ends, you'll eventually have all the castle upgrades, and have nothing to spend your points on but fortifying your castle (AKA upping your hit points) and repairing damage from the day's siege. But once you get far enough in the game, you'll be spending plenty of points on healing, so it's not really that big of an issue.
But you may be thinking, "all this is available in the Flash version of the game, and for free even, so why should I spend $5 on this?". Well, there's two major reasons this is worth your hard earned Wii Points. First of all, the visuals. There's a certain charm to the game's appearance. It looks like something a fifth-grader would dream up while bored in class. The invaders are stick figures with buttons for heads. Enemy bombers roll cap-gun ammo rings at your castle. There's even giant enemies with heads that look suspiciously similar to 1960's Pepsi caps with those little stick-on beady eyes. The presentation seems to be deliberately crude, and it works very well. But although the game looks nice, it really could have used some music.
The other major reason to pick this one up is the added multiplayer. Alone, this game is fun, and will keep you entertained for a little while before you move on to something else. But with a friend (or three), the game's fun-factor absolutely skyrockets. Shortly after I got the game, a friend and I played it together, and before we knew it an hour had passed. It's got a definite "just one more round" appeal to it. So while you may lose interest in playing the game alone after a few days, it'll definitely be something you load up when you have friends over.
Out of the entire WiiWare launch lineup, I honestly think that Defend Your Castle represents the best value currently available on the service. Oh, it's no LostWinds, that's for sure. But what you get for the price you pay makes Defend Your Castle worth every Wii Point it costs. I've already gotten at least three hours of playtime out of it, and for five bucks, that's not bad at all. Just…don't play it for too long in one sitting. You may need a wrist brace once it's all over.
Images courtesy of XGen Studios.