House of Whacks

What would you get if you stripped the Castle Defense formula down to its most rock-bottom basics, added in about ten million dwarves, and kicked the whole package into hyperdrive? Chances are it would look a lot like Hero Defense Pro (Out Now, Free), recently brought to the App Store courtesy of 9magnets.  While it offers little that Castle Defense fans will find surprising other than its sheer rapidity, Hero Defense is worth noting for the amount of content it packs in at its featherlight price.

So, apparently evil dwarves are running amok. Lots and lots and lots of them, and they delight in whacking away at big fortifications with their little hatchets — and sometimes with their Gatling guns! Most do-gooders have fled the premises well in advance of their arrival, but we wouldn’t have a Castle Defense game if there weren’t at least one warrior willing to stand in front of a giant bull’s eye, now, would we? Lacking much of an explanation for why this is all happening, the player suits up either as a brutish warrior or a magic-wielding sorceress to take on the approaching horde.

Packing in four environments, four difficulty levels, and separate Game Center leaderboards devoted to the resulting permutations, Hero Defense could last quite a while in theory. Per genre tradition gameplay focuses on purchasing decisions: whether to spend cash from felled dwarves on upgrades to the player character’s stats or patching up fortifications as they break down. The most interesting element Hero Defense brings to the table are castle gates, which thin incoming waves as long as the player sees fit to pump resources into their constant repair. There’s an In-App Purchase hook in being able to trade real-world cash for in-game currency, but as always, it strikes me as unnecessary and something that undermines the genre’s strengths if taken advantage of anyway.

Hero Defense measures up to its price tag in how quickly its otherwise meaty content wears thin. Eternally locked in auto-attack mode, the castle defender wipes enemies off the field just about as soon as they rush in; the player’s command over his or her character extends mostly to activating a narrow range of skills and keeping the Health bar replenished with restoratives purchased on-the-fly. The torrent of dwarves is virtually ceaseless throughout the dozens of rounds that compose a level, even when the player is navigating a menu. This robs Hero Defense of the joy of methodical decision making usually made between waves or levels in other genre offerings, although there’s no question it will appeal to anyone open to a high pressure resource management experience.

Hero Defense‘s tap-and-go system for movement works very well, featuring much more prominently during a playthrough as the short-range warrior. The player is supposedly able to view any part of the battlefield by holding and dragging across the touchscreen with two fingers, but I could never get this functionality to work for me. Not that it makes too much of a difference — the dwarves rush to their target so quickly there’s precious little time for sightseeing.

Hero Defense‘s visual presentation – with its tiny sprites and limited range of animations – meets the expectations of its price range; the player will just be thankful that bosses occasionally walk in to break up the stream of little-varied dwarf fodder. Its driving soundtrack, by contrast, is an unexpected treat!

iFanzine Verdict: A passing curiosity for most who enjoy the very best Castle Defense has to offer on iOS. Nevertheless, diehard genre fans may squeeze quite a lot of entertainment out of Hero Defense Pro if they don’t mind a bare-bones approach and are especially on the lookout for something that’s fast paced. At the magic price of free, it doesn’t disappoint!

[xrr rating=3/5]