Between the real-time strategy of Brutal Legend and the classic turn-based role-playing mechanics of Costume Quest, Double Fine has made a name for themselves by turning classic genres on their head. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, these games offer a great sense of humor, memorable characters and a whole lot of other things completely missing from most modern games. The result is games that become cult classics; the type of experience that sticks with you long after the game has ended.
Double Fine's newest twist on a popular genre is Trenched, an intoxicating mix of mech and tower defense games. As somebody who generally shies away from both genres, I worried that this would be the first game in their repertoire I had no interest in. Thankfully that's not the case, because Trenched works as a solid action game that offers just enough strategic planning to feel fresh.
Trenched takes place in a bizarro alternate history where two World War I veterans, Frank Woodruff and Vladamir Farnsworth, gain super-human intelligence and knowledge of advanced technology. The two put their newfound know-how to work in very different ways. After losing his legs in the war, Frank decided to create a series of mech-like machines known as "mobile trenches." On the flip side, Farnsworth created Monovision, allowing people to experience the world around them without even getting up from the couch. Sadly, Farnsworth is driven insane by this invention and creates an army of Monovision-based monsters. It's up to Woodruff's walking trenches (and a few brave soldiers) to make sure Farnsworth doesn't take over the world.
Those looking for real world parallels will get a kick out of the over-the-top story. The Monovision monsters (known from here on out as Tubes) are made out of televisions and Farnsworth goal certainly feels like a metaphor for evils of the media. It's also worth noting that there's a fun little nod to Philo Farnsworth, who is one of the men credited for creating the television set. Double Fine is nothing if not topical.
Trenched is a lot more than your typical mech-style action game. Each of the fifteen levels plays out in roughly the same way, where our brave soldiers are asked to protect one (or more) base from wave after wave of Tubes. Thankfully the Tubes only come from a few directions, which is where the tower defense angle comes in. Each fallen Tube drops scraps which can be used to buy and upgrade "emplacements," which include gun turrets, health recharging stations and other helpful amenities.
Placing these emplacements is a breeze; you simply hold the left bumper button and release it on the surface you want turret to drop. This can be done before rounds, after rounds and even in the middle of a huge firefight. As long as you have collected enough scraps, you're free to do just about anything you want with these battlefield power-ups. But be careful, because Farnsworth has many different types of Tubes, including a few that can easily take out your emplacements.
Although the gameplay largely stays the same, Trenched finds a way to offer fifteen varied levels. In some stages you'll have to protect two bases at once, while in another you will have to defeat a wave and then rush to the other side of the map to locate another base (with its own waves of enemies). Sometimes all of the Tubes will be in front of you, other times they'll come from all sides. Even the Tubes themselves change over the course of the game, so you'll constantly be forced to change up your strategy.
Don't like tower defense games? Not impressed by the slow-moving nature of mech games? Me neither, yet I couldn't get enough of Double Fine's newest game. Trenched isn't perfect (it can be a tad frustrating when playing solo), but that shouldn't stop you from experiencing one of the year's most creative games!
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!