(Developer: Andreil Game)
Being more than a little versed in a good deal of what the App Store has to offer, I’ve seen many a game like Orcs! on iOS. It’s a recognizable formula: enemies advance from the right, you create and send out units from the left. Sometimes it’s one big battlefield and other times it’s split into “lanes,” but it’s the same idea. Resources accumulate in realtime, with stronger units taking longer to save up for, and combination of strategy and quick-thinking are required to not get steam-rolled. But while these games are a dime-a-dozen on the iPhone (or rather, a dollar-a-piece), there haven’t been many of them available on Xbox Live. Until now, anyway.
Orcs! is a simple enough game in which players must simultaneously attack and defend against hordes of nasty green baddies. Each of the three unit types (essentially a fighter, thief and mage) has a unit it’s weak against, which corresponds to a specific face button. Which is to say magic users (red robes) are weak against warriors, and summoning a warrior is done with the B (red) button. Likewise, warriors (yellow armor) are weak against thieves which are conjured using the Y (yellow) button. Enemies will pour in from the right-hand side of the screen in a handful of “lanes,” and being able to get the right trooper moving down the proper path can quickly become a mother of a challenge. Especially in the later stages. Sounds simple, yes?
Well that’s how it starts, but each victory (earned by getting a unit to the edge of the screen) leads to new territory with tougher waves. Also landmines. On top of that, it’s possible to let resources pile up and release a bunch of soldiers at once, or even spend it all on a single upgraded version. The upgraded units are tougher and generally more effective, even against their weaknesses, but one certainly doesn’t guarantee victory. Especially against their polar opposites. Failure to fight back the onslaught isn’t an automatic Game Over, however, and if an enemy reaches your end of the screen the fight will take a step back into the previous area, like a never-ending game of tug-of-war.
Much like Andreil Game’s previous titles, Orcs! has a very solid foundation that’s just simple enough to make it easy for anyone to get into, but also complex enough to keep people interested. And it’s also quite fun. The flip-side to this is that the visuals aren’t quite as refined as what they’re overlaying. The graphics are fuzzy and lack much detail, but I’m most disappointed by the lack of any real visual distinction between sides. Sure, the orcs are green, but they’re pretty much just recolored sprites of the other characters. None of this really detracts from the gameplay, but it’s possible that it could drive away potential players. And at this point I think the developer should really consider backing up their obvious talent for the technical (and fun!) with some refined and well-deserved visual upgrades. Not necessarily hyper-HD crap or anything, but maybe sharper imagery with a bit more of a definitive style. It happened with the PC release of Little Kingdom, so why not do it again? And, I dunno, maybe all the time?
Still, for a buck you really can’t go wrong. Orcs! is a fun game wrapped in a rough-looking package, but it’s the whole “being fun” thing that makes it worthwhile. It’s a simple easy-to-learn, difficult to master pseudo arcade strategy game representing a genre that’s not getting a whole lot of love on Xbox Live at the moment. At the very least, why not take a look at the trial? What have you got to lose?