On the Wednesday Weigh-in, Paladog

I got this e-mail from a friend. She writes:

Subject: Paladin
So I defeated level 5-24, now what?

5-24 is the last of 120 levels. This message was sent on Saturday at 7pm. I told her about the game Wednesday night.

The game? Paladog.

The Elements: Paladog is primarily a real time side scrolling strategy game. You cast spells and select units to march across the screen attempting to destroy the enemy castle and occasionally a large boss.

The Crux: Basic Gameplay is you play an armored dog mounted on a horse. He can move back and forth across the battlefield and if he dies, you lose. The battlefield is two dimensional, left and right being your only options for movement. You have a food bar, a mana bar, a gold total and an experience bar.
Food accumulates automatically, once you have enough, you can summon troops. Once a troop is selected, they walk in from the left side of the screen towards the right. Each unit has a cool down after being selected.
The mana bar allows you to activate a variety of wands that you can collect. You can equip three for each battle, and each has a variable cost allowing you to a variety of things, such as fire a fist to damage the enemy, healing your troops, converting mana to food, or calling in a meteor strike.
As you defeat enemies you accumulate gold and experience. Gold allow you to purchase new unit types (Bears with pikes, dragons, monkey pirates that throw bombs) and upgrade your units to be more effective. Experience allows you to level up, giving you a random selection of three abilities to choose from. These include effects such as gaining mana or food more quickly, reduced cooldown of units, more health, larger food or mana bars, increased power of rings or staves and a variety of other effects.
Every third level is a special game mode, either you have to protect a caravan as it travels, wage a war on a multi-level battlefield, win a level with random troops and wand effects, or fight a boss.

The Countenance: Again, my nephew was playing this game. The combination of the leveling, upgrading, and spellcasting showed it was well worth the 2$ they were asking for the game. Once I downloaded it I was a bit perturbed at the cutsy/furry nature of the game. (One of my friends said, "Are you fighting TV's? Isn't that silly?") I was able to get over it - the game is very addictive. (That same friend texted me later saying "I can't get past level 1-21!") There is a reasonable level of strategic depth. I'm playing on the hardest level, and it usually only takes one or two tries to figure out what strategy is needed. You always keep your gold and experience even if you lose the level, so if you're not very good, being persistent works equally as well.

The Genre: Since you have very little direct control over the game and it is mostly about your choices, the game is primarily Strategic. The fact that the game occurs in realtime however gives it a small action component. The game is also clearly about the Conflict between the two opposing forces. Since each level and unlock-able is sequential, and game-play is strictly two dimensional, there is a lack of an exploration component. The game falls pretty clearly into ASC, being a real-time strategy game.

The Detritus: I am not a fan of the anthropomorphic animals, or the silly monsters. However the in-game story of humans were wiped out for being degenerate, and cute animals were given the chance to run the world; Then demons discovered they couldn't corrupt the cute animals so they just flat out declared war against them is pretty interesting.

Some people complain that you have to grind or play levels over and over again to progress. I just wanted to point out, that you are unlikely to need to do that if you're good. And even when you do, certain levels have a much higher gold value then others (boss levels in particular). You are also timed, so in order to get the best score, some replaying of levels is rewarded. Though on hard, it's fairly easy to hit these timer markers.

Some of your units can hit ghosts. Unit selection makes a big difference, they are all useful from time to time - even the little mice.

The Final Counsel: This game is without question engaging and fun. Well, well worth the cost.
There was something about sitting down and playing it that just draws you right in.

Paladog is available for the iphone.

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