We're refining the focus of our weekly iPad reviews feature going forward, hitting just four games a week (instead of the previous five) and only spotlighting games that we think are worth a download for one reason or another. That doesn't mean every entry is a must-have, slam-dunk, can't miss affair, but total clunkers like last week's Thor: Son of Asgard simply won't make the cut. Headlining this week's piece is Army of Darkness Defense, an action-focused tower defense game based on the cult favorite flick, which is joined by three other recent releases playable on both iPad and iPhone.
Game: Army of Darkness Defense HD
Buy it now from the iTunes store: US / UK
It's been almost two decades since its original release, but Evil Dead trilogy closer Army of Darkness remains as beloved as ever, thanks to the enduring charm of star Bruce Campbell and the film's endlessly quotable script. All of that comes through in Army of Darkness Defense, an action-oriented take on the tower defense genre that follows series hero Ash Williams as fights off skeleton warriors and other enemies while spouting off quips from the flick, generating legions of allies, and summoning familiar helpers like Lord Arthur and the Wiseman.
In a move befitting Ash's in-your-face mannerisms, Army of Darkness Defense doesn't just find you setting up turrets and watching the combat unfold. Rather, you'll command Ash as he attacks enemies on the frontlines, while using available resources to summon helpers and upgrade your abilities between enemy waves. Over the course of 50 waves (with an unlockable endless option), you'll unleash melee fighters and archers alike, while blasting back opponents with your own boomstick, chainsaw, and other special attacks. Strategy typically takes a backseat to brute force and continually pumping out human shields, though you'll have to find the right balance between splurging all your resources on units or actually using them to speed up the resource capacity and generation rate.
Army of Darkness Defense is a decidedly non-traditional take on the tower defense genre, largely swapping out tactics for nonstop action, but this piece of pure fan service will no doubt go down smooth for series die-hards. The cartoon-like approach perfectly complements the numerous in-jokes culled from the film, and the 100+ quotes from the film capture the essence of Ash's character in a meaningful way. While the gameplay isn't quite as striking, Army of Darkness Defense remains a pretty entertaining affair throughout – even if you don't have the film's script memorized.
Game: iStriker: Rescue & Combat
Buy it now from the iTunes store: US / UK
iStriker: Rescue & Combat follows the classic blueprint for vertically scrolling shoot-'em-ups, with screen-filling bullet patterns, intense difficulty, and even deviously tough Game Center achievements, but as indicated by the title, this game is focused on more than just blasting tanks and massive boss vehicles. Indeed, you'll need to set your helicopter down on the ground for moments at a time to pick up allies, who offer fuel, health, and ammunition bonuses amidst the mayhem. It doesn't dramatically shift the feel of the game, but it's just another thing to worry about while lasers burst in every direction around your 'copter.
Despite generic stage and vehicle designs, iStriker: Rescue & Combat's tough-as-nails shooter design should appease fans of the genre seeking something on the go, and this cheap app works great on both iPhone and iPad. Both touch and tilt movement options are available, and each is worth considering. Using the touch option generally yields more precise control, but your hand can obstruct the action; and while the tilt choice works well enough, it's tough to have the same kind of confidence that you'll be able to safely dodge waves of nearby bullets. In addition to the always-on standard fire, you also have a limited supply of screen-clearing bombs and intense laser shots that help you duck out of tough situations – of which there are many.
Despite the recent addition of a lowest-level Novice difficulty option (to supplement the three original choices), seeing all five of iStriker: Rescue & Combat's stages will be a serious test for all but hardened shoot-'em-up fans – which may be frustrating for the rest of us, but the genre has rarely been one for fringe players and this is no exception. While the iPhone has a couple of classic Japanese shoot-'em-up options in the form of Espagaluda II and Dodonpachi Resurrection, neither has a native iPad iteration – but this solid homage to more distinctive shooters serves as a pretty decent substitute in the meantime.