Who’d have guessed that a cartoonish, side-scrolling real-time strategy game about meat-craving Vikings, chili pepper-obsessed Aztecs, and Imperial Chinese warriors with a toy fetish would be our favorite WiiWare game this year? Swords & Soldiers sets itself apart from the glut of mediocre downloadable games clogging Nintendo’s console by offering a fresh take on the RTS genre that keeps the action simple, intensely addictive, and outrageously funny. Simply put: Once you pick up the controller and fire up this gem, you won’t want to put it down.
The foundation of Swords & Soldiers’ gameplay is one we’ve seen many times before. You direct peons to gather gold, upgrade your base, build units, and send your forces marching en-masse towards the enemy, who is also squarely focused on doing the exact same thing. Sometimes you’ll defend your own base from attack, while other times you’ll focus on crushing your opponent’s stronghold to dust. However, in this case the whole thing plays out on a lengthy and colorfully designed 2D side-scrolling battlefield filled with comical warriors whose goofy charm and zany personalities instantly suck you into the game’s enthralling grip.
Each of Swords & Soldiers’ three madcap factions features its own set of excellently designed units with unique abilities and a separate 10 mission campaign. The varied units run the gamut from swords and axe men, wizardly mystics, and loincloth-wearing blow gunners to lumbering juggernauts, catapults, skeleton-summoning necromancers, defensive turrets, and numerous other brutes. A slew of fun support spells also enable you to set traps, unleash icy blizzards, heal and shield your units, call down blasts of lightning, and engage in all manner of destructive shenanigans.
Whether you’re dishing out a healthy magical smackdown to help your troops along or frantically summoning more soldiers to keep from being overrun, simple-to-grasp and well designed Wii Remote controls let you speedily bounce around the map and handle your strategizing duties with relative ease.
The difficulty fluctuates across the main trio of campaigns, though most of the missions are incredibly absorbing to play through. A handful of entertaining mini-game modes and unlockable achievements to uncover are mildly fun extras. Yet it’s the killer split-screen multiplayer mode that’s the real surprise bonus of this package. Being able to unleash the full might of your army against a couch mate in massive, strategic shove-fests is sheer bliss. Swords & Soldiers will certainly make you laugh, but it’s also just as likely to give you a serious hand cramp from the many hours of your time it will commandeer.
Jun 12, 2009