Critical Play: Theme Only Games Kingdom Rush: Appstore for Android

Name of game, creator, platform.

I played Ironhide Game Studio’s Kingdom Rush and PONOS Corporation’s The Battle Cats on iPhone.

Target Audience

Both tower defense games use cartoony themes to appeal to a casual audience. Kingdom Rush‘s fantasy theme provides a familiar backdrop for the genre to more accessibly communicate in-game mechanics and rules. The Battle Cats uses cuteness and humor in their design to signal that the game won’t be a great match for hardcore players.

Important Formal Elements of the game

Resources and Rules

Kingdom Rush sticks with a traditional theming for the genre, a medieval fantasy world. This makes the onboarding process for both new and experienced players smoother: familiar tropes and genre expectations map onto game objects and their interactions.

For example, when a new enemy is introduced, their name and art signal their characteristics. The Bandit behaves as a casual player would guess: fast, deadly, and evasive:

The Battle Cats substitutes the conventional tower deployment with troops of cartoon animals. Both enemies and cats exist in a less conventional theme that prioritizes cuteness over player understanding. Compare the characters of Kingdom Rush to the scene below. Although it may be harder to guess how each doodle attacks from just a glance, the charm of the art style signals that’s probably more okay in this game.

Type of fun game intended, and if it met its goals

Challenge in Kingdom Rush

The familiar theming welcomes the designers to steadily increase difficulty as they introduce new characters and mechanics. Each level builds off the last in an unobtrusive way. An early game enemy is introduced as resistant to magic attacks, suggesting that we don’t want to spend all of our coin our wizard towers. This simple complication to the base enemy is integrated smoothly by depicting the magic-resistant enemy as a Shaman, whose appearance is quite different from other monsters:

Submission in Battle Cats

In contrast, The Battle Cats uses arcade visuals and high-octane effects to create a rewarding experience for a casual skill threshold. Currency can grow at an exceeding rate such that the end game results in a spamming of adorable cat troops. Flashing effects to Fire!! a defense system or level up your money growth make for an experience that visually clutters relevant information, but pays in dopaminergic feedback.

Moments of particular success

It’s quite rewarding to have powerful attacks that regenerate slowly, like Kingdom Rush‘s Meteor or Battle Cats‘ Defense Cannon. Finding the pacing so that a player finishes an encounter with a close save feels quite rewarding!

Things you would change to make the game better

Both of the early game stages have felt a bit arbitrary, like minimal strategy is required to pass the level. It would be neat if the game made you struggle a bit more, but then relieved that tension by then introducing the store much later on, like in Plants vs. Zombies. That way, non-core mechanics outside of the main gameplay feel valuable and worth investing in rather than making them part of the game right from the start.

About the author

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.