Monster Castle Defense is a retro-styled 2D tower defense game with cute little pixel graphics and a level of difficulty that will certainly get your attention. In order to keep the princess (queen? lady in a towel?) safe, you must deploy a series of creatures to fight off ever-advancing evil soldiers. Upgrade your warriors to bigger, badder fighters, and keep the hallways clear as you try to survive wave after wave of attacks!
We're all quite familiar with the tower defense concept by now, and even though Monster Castle Defense ditches the top-down perspective in favor of a side view, the principles are pretty much the same. Use the mouse or keyboard to select any of eight creatures from your inventory on the right side of the screen. Each one has its own unique ability, such as close-range melee attacks, fireballs, slow gel, or even attack bees! Buy a unit and set it on one of the glowing spaces on the floor. Creatures automatically face the right direction, all you have to do is decide what to place and at which moment to do it.
When an enemy saunters by, your creatures attack. Wear down streams of evil soldiers, nasty priests, demented hikers, and not-so-nice kamikazes to earn cash, represented by skulls. Use the money to buy more creatures (naturally), or upgrade existing ones when their XP bars are full. You can also increase an individual unit's effectiveness for a small fee, and if you've decided someone isn't pulling their weight, sell them off and put in something new. After all, it's your responsibility to defend the lovely lady at the top of the castle, not some crummy skeleton's.
Units not doing a good enough job? Why not summon one of your spells to give them a hand? Fire, lightning, tornado and blizzard are at your disposal, each costing a hefty chunk of change and offering a one-off attack to deal extra damage to a foe. They're best reserved for emergency situations, so save them for just such an occasion and spend your skull money on upgrades and new units instead.
Analysis: Strategy is the name of the game with Monster Castle Defense, and everything in the game is chiseled down to allow for fine-tuning of your own personal tower defense philosophy. Instead of dealing with flying enemies, fast enemies, walking enemies and other gimmicks, Monster Castle Defense tosses creeps your way that can heal themselves, climb up through the ceiling, or even attack your own creatures! This allows you to focus on your strategy, not worrying about whether or not you can defend against a flying monster that's immune to fire damage. Balance is still key, but you're a bit more free to customize your attack plan in this tower defense game.
Monster Castle Defense isn't necessarily one of those games you can just pick up and play right off the bat, even if you're a tower defense expert. You're presented with an information dump before the game begins, running you through everything you should know before you start to play. Enemy abilities, keyboard shortcuts, info on how to upgrade units, and even your own creatures' abilities are shown in a quick slideshow, with a few pointers and the same tutorial available from the in-game help menu. It's a lot to digest for a casual browser game, but at least you have a few waves to experiment before the heavy fighters start to roll in.
Four castles in all, each with a variable difficulty level, offers a good deal of challenge for browser tower defense fans. Even on easy, however, you'll have a bit of an uphill battle trying to survive each wave of enemies. Distilling your own plan of attack is absolutely essential to winning this game, so practice makes perfect. And memorizing the help screens never hurts, either!
The interface could be a little clearer and the learning curve a bit more accessible, but Monster Castle Defense provides a solid strategy experience with a distinct focus on actual strategy, not luck. Plus, it's hard to say no to a game with pixel art this gorgeous!