Double Fine drops the cute to get muddy and bloody
The tower-defense genre is ubiquitous on the Web and mobile phones, as it’s usually designed specifically with the limitations of those platforms in mind. Trenched puts a different spin on the standard formula, utilizing the power of home consoles to evolve strategies beyond the simple point, click, rinse, and repeat repetitiveness that relentlessly plagues similar offerings.
Trenched brings the action down to mud and blood with a third-person perspective as you pilot a “mobile trench”—a mech, basically. Your objective? Save an alternate-history world from Monovisions—walking mechanized TVs, more or less—and their nefarious creator by preventing waves of enemies from destroying key bases across three continents. While you can place turrets in any suitable location, running and gunning also plays a role, which keeps the action truly frenetic and engaging.
You can customize your trench with new weapons, legs, and cores that allow for a variety of loadouts and strategies; you’ll find the best pieces in random boss-unit-dropped loot boxes. According to Double Fine, the game contains approximately 250 equipable items altogether, and examining the trenches of top leaderboard players reveals a large variety of weaponry waiting to be discovered—“Mr. Pancakes” seems to be the favorite so far.
Though going solo’s always an option, four heroes are certainly better than one. The game changes notably depending on how many players are involved—mostly making your life easier but also requiring some strong tactical teamwork. For example, scrap—enemy-dropped currency used to purchase turrets—is spread evenly across all players. A nice gesture, but that also places a bigger emphasis on shooting, as turrets aren’t as plentiful. If just one player lets a group of Monovisions slip through their defenses, it can have a devastating domino effect on the rest of the team.
Trenched’s more mature tone is a welcome change, but Double Fine fans will appreciate the hints of that trademark humor and especially excellent creature design. Going back and playing through with your overpowered trench is good fun, but once you have all the gold medals, there’s little leftover value. For the average gamer, Trenched lacks the broad appeal found in Double Fine’s previous work, yet it’s still a fair investment if you’ve been waiting for the next step in the tower-defense genre.
SUMMARY: Yet another solid downloadable title from Double Fine, but while Trenched makes for a decent evening of gaming, it lacks true staying power.
- THE GOOD: Well-designed, engaging spin on the stale tower-defense genre
- THE BAD: Overall package could’ve used some replay-value padding
- THE UGLY: Losing your base on the final wave just plain sucks