The idealized Dark Ages are full of might, magic, and armor-clad knights with huge swords. It was a time of epic romance, heroes, and demons of all sizes. Thankfully, every warrior in these tales has a castle to defend, which makes the perfect fodder for iOS developers looking to make a tower defense game. But can a game like Heroes & Castles reinvigorate the tired genre with some fresh life, or will the skeletons get into the courtyard and slaughter everyone? Let's have a look.

The recipe for a tower defense game is fairly simple and has been utterly beaten to the brink of being undead. You've probably hovered high in the sky, protecting your land from balloons, orcs, and tanks more times than you can count. Heroes & Castles has all of the power-ups, building management, and waves of enemies you could want, but the developers have provided you with a somewhat more intimate view of the action.

In addition to building your caste walls and lining them with archers, you take on the role of the hero protector of the castle. You have your choice of a Knight, Paladin, or Engineer, each with their own special skill set. You're then thrust into the over-the-shoulder view of a third-person hack-and-slash game, like Wild Blood, and tasked with going beyond the castle walls to slice and dice marauding skeletons into oblivion.

While you're liberally covering yourself in the body parts of your skeletal foes, you still have to manage all the defenses of your keep. You have a fully upgradeable legion of soldiers and castle walls to manage with the coins you receive from liberating enemies from their top and bottom halves.

Heroes & Castles may not have the greatest graphics in the mobile realm, but they serve their purpose well enough. I wish that they were a bit better because seeing the same skeleton model over and over made things a bit boring. But keeping the polygon count down means fast load times for you and no slowdown when you get tons of enemies on the screen.

Where Heroes & Castles really shines is in the gameplay. Even the best tower defense games can get a bit boring after awhile, but tossing me into the iron boots of a hero beyond the outer walls kept the excitement flowing. The controls made running around the battlefield quick and easy. Dispatching enemies with a quick combo from my trusty sword was satisfying and enjoyable.

The way you manage your fortress is simple and sleek. Reinforcements are only a tap away and upgrades can be purchased between the levels. Soon, you'll have yourself an iron fortress guarded by some of the most fearsome warriors in the realm. It really helps once the onslaught of enemies becomes thunderous and the sky is filled with fiery debris from catapults.

Surprisingly enough, Heroes & Castles has online co-op multiplayer where you can draft in one of your friends or someone random to help defend the castle against some more skeletons. This works well enough and is a bit of fun for when you get a friend playing in the same room as you. For now, I can only speculate about the multiplayer Versus option since it is still in the works. But with the decent controls on display, I'm hoping to see something like a battle arena where you can showdown against your friends with your highest level character to win dominion over their kingdom and pillage all of their land, upgrades, and armies. If you're going to make it competitive, let's have some real competition.

The only clawing downsides to this game are the somewhat lackluster graphics and repetitive nature inherent in tower defense games. You are treated to some larger bad guys later in the game, but for the most part you feel as if you're stuck in a never-ending final battle from Jason and the Argonauts. Also, It would feel like a larger and more ambitious game if there were more choices in locations. If they had built up some more lore surrounding the land, then the game could have been more immersive.

All in all, Heroes & Castles is well worth a two dollar bill and some memory on your iOS device. It is one of the best and most unique takes on a tower defense game that we've seen in awhile. This is a game that you can have sitting proudly next to Plants Vs. Zombies and Fieldrunners 2. Just don't let the plants know that there are zombies in Heroes & Castles too.


App Store Link: Heroes & Castles for iPhone & iPad | By Foursaken Media | Price: $1.99 | Version: 1.0.1 | 318 MB | Rating 9+

8.0 out of 10 arcade sushi rating