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Once upon a time in a magical kingdom a long way there lived a young serving boy named Chauncey. Like all good stories this one begins with the classic "once upon a time". The King chokes on a bone and young Chauncey is there to save him whilst the Chancellor is entertaining guests. Indebted to Chauncey the King gives him his almighty sword "Grimthwacker" and sends him off to the Shimto Plains to build up a settlement and pop the horde. As you do when someone's saved your life. That's the basis of the game, quite simple but every so much fun.
It's split into two parts and both affect each other and the way the game goes. The first is the strategy time, you're given two minutes (real time) to move, buy and sell things around your current kingdom. To start with it's only basics like spike traps, cows and fences but come the end of the year it's shopping time but more on that later. Once you've used up your 2 minutes or simply called forth the horde as you've done everything you need it's action time. This is where you control Chauncey and run around with the oversized sword that is Grimwacker hitting the horde. It's really very simple. The trick is to kill off the horde before they eat all your crops, cows, villagers and houses. The more stuff still standing at the end of the season (or round) the more cash you get and cash is one of the several challenges in this game. At the end of each year (which consists of 4 seasons) you have to pay taxes. Taxes increase every single year so it's wise to keep some money spare. Once the taxes are paid you can use any spare moolah to buy upgrades such as bombs, a ring of teleportation, solid stone walls, knights, the list goes on and keeps increasing as the years go by. However spending all your money on upgrades isn't the best plan because if when the taxman (the evil chancellor as it says in the manual) cometh you don't have enough crowns, the ingame currency, you end up in the slammer and it's game over. The taxes add the main challenge to the game, otherwise it would simply be a matter of surviving each attack then letting the town rebuild for the next round and so on ad infinitum.
Once you're beginning to get the hang of the town you're in charge of it's off to the castle for medals, tea and crumpets and a new location. One of those is a lie, answers on a postcard to the usual address... 3 years in each location is all you get before off to pastures new, each has it's own new hordlings and environmental problems, such as the desert area with practically zero water in it and the forests where the pygmy hordlings can hide in the trees which are just a bit too close to your village for comfort. Why not chop them down then? Well the forest spirit will become angry and then you're in trouble. It's just one of the many little things which make this game great. Another is the miscellaneous interruptions from a CNNesque tv news station midway through the year. It's funny merely from the tone of voice it's spoken in but it does actually affect the gameplay.
Money makes the world go round and there are a few ways to make money. One is making sure the pesky hordling don't eat your crops, villagers and cows (which at 100 crowns a pop are expensive to replace even though they make lots of money for you). Another is growing and chopping down trees, you plant your sapling for 1 crown wait a few seasons and sell your tree for 5 crowns, doesn't sound like much but it's enough to make sure you've got money for the taxman. A final is when you pop, I know I've used this phrase a few times but when you hit one with the sword they inflate and then pop goes the hordling. Anyway when they do pop they occasionally drop crowns and small change is better than no money.
The sound on the game is pretty good, the voice acting is fairly hammy but suits the style. The music is some weird sort of techno hybrid but the best thing and what brought childhood memories flooding back is the horde call "awoooo awoooo". The effects, such as the horde call, don't get repetitive too quickly but if you play this for hours straight, not that I have ever..no definitely not.
Problems with the game? Not that many, when you mess up it's your own fault because you couldn't get there in time to save the villagers. My one major annoyance with this, especially towards the end of the game, is that you can only save at the end of each year so you can work your way to winter only to be wiped out by some almighty hordling who is built like a house, only a bit faster and about 8 times more stupid. It's a shame but I guess it adds more to the important word which is "challenge".
I give this game a round 5 just because it's fun and different to most strategy or action games in the sense that it's both at the same time. Oh and watch out for the surprise twist at the end... You'll probably see it coming but that's beside the point.