When it comes to video games armadillos are surprisingly underused characters. Aside from a footnote in Sonic's history (do you remember Mighty the Armadillo?), and a Famicom game only released in Japan, this species has been wholly unrepresented in modern day gaming, but Nintendo is about to change all that. With the eShop release of Dillion's Rolling Western, armadillos are finally going to get their chance to shine.
Tower defense games have really claimed a niche for themselves in the last few years, but until now Nintendo hasn't really taken on the genre. Dillon's Rolling Western blends action with tower defense to create a uniquely different type of game. Co-developed by Nintendo's Software Planning and Development Group 3 (Nintendo's internal team that helped with Punch-Out!! and the Metroid Prime series) and Vanpool, you control Dillon, an intimidating armadillo, who is helping to protect various western towns from an invasion of Grock monsters. The Grocks come in various shapes and sizes, but are all evil rock-like foes that emerge from their dens in the evening looking to poach Scrogs from the villages.
Each siege takes place over the course of three days, during each of which Dillon has the opportunity to build defense towers, as well as explore the desert for valuable materials. The towers can be constructed of different materials to increase durability, and armed with different weapons to increase range and strength. Depending on what he collects, and how well he protects the Scrogs, Dillon will pocket a healthy reward if he is successful.
A New Take On Tower Defense
Instead of simply setting up towers, and watching them lay waste to on-coming waves of attackers Dillon's take a different, more hands-on approach. Dillon has to visit each tower and decide how to construct it and what to stock it with. While rolling from tower to tower, Dillon can collect items and cash to help make his next defense easier, as long as he makes it back to town before the sky turns red. When it does, the Grocks start invading, and its up to Dillon to stop them, either with his towers, or with his fists. During each wave of Grocks, Dillon can initiate action sequences where he can physically attack Grock minions, therein alleviating that individual invader. If he can't get to them in time, his towers are the backup plan.
Good Use Of The Controls
Taking place almost exclusively on the touchscreen, Dillon's Rolling Western makes great use of the controls. They're both simple and easy to use; pull back to charge, and slide forward to roll. As the game progresses, Dillon can add more attacks by upgrading his equipment, and while they require a little more dexterity and timing with the stylus the controls remain solid throughout... unless you're left-handed, then you're pretty much out of luck.
There's A Whole Lot Going On
Blending two different genres of games can make for some solid gameplay, but it can also overwhelm the player. With both action and tower defense mechanics happening at the same time Dillon's Rolling Western succeeds at being an intense and frantic game, but it can also come across as confusing and convoluted. Even experienced gamers may need to replay the first area multiple times in order to fully comprehended all of the different layers of the game, only to have a few more added on in the next town. While it isn't a game-crippling problem, there is a bit of a learning curve before the game really takes off.
Pushing The Game Along
It may be a small issue, but for some reason the touchscreen is considered the action button in the game. While this isn't a problem during gameplay (where it works quite nicely) having to touch the screen to advance every stage of a conversation or make a selection in a menu gets old really quickly, especially while your finger is likely resting on top of the L button the whole time.
Dillon's Rolling Western is a solid attempt to do something new by blending together two well-established genres. By smashing tower defense head first into an action title Dillon's creates something wholly different from anything in the eShop, or anywhere else for that matter. Unfortunately, this new Frankengame comes with a few growing pains, most of which can be overcome with perseverance. Dillon's Rolling Western isn't your standard, casual tower defense game, and if you're looking for something that isn't too complex or challenging, you should probably look elsewhere. However, if you're up for the challenging, Dillon's will push you to become a better player by not holding your hand, and force you to accept this creation for what it is; something new and different.