IGN Review of Defendin' De Penguin
The DS has seen its share of real-time strategy titles. Defendin' de Penguin, from Crave Entertainment and Brain Toys, claims to be the first designed with children under 12 in mind. It may sound good in theory, but this game makes you wonder if there's a reason no one's done this before.
The premise is simple -- you play as Little Blue, everyone's favorite little penguin, who's always willing to lend a hand. Blue's village needs fish to survive, so they keep a stockpile on hand in the center of the town. Every year, wild creatures come by looking for a free meal, and try to make off with the fish. One day Professor Profi, Blue's Mentor, asks him to test out his newest invention, a snowball launcher that will defend the town against the scavengers. It worked so well that they decided to take it upon themselves to protect the village fish supply, and scare off the wild beasts once and for all.
Defendin' de Penguin is a standard tower defense-style RTS, in that the gameplay consists almost entirely of the strategic placement of different varieties of offensive and defensive towers to keep the invading enemy at bay. The game slowly and deliberately introduces you to the different types of towers and the enemies they work best against. Small animals like foxes and boars can be taken down with a simple snow ball chucker, while other enemies with hard shells, like crabs and turtles, are best dispatched using a tower that shoots hard ice cubes. Some animals, like wolves and saber-tooth tigers, are very fast, so they need to be slowed down with a tower that periodically shoots out a radial blast of cold air; this can help keep them in the line of fire as long as possible. There are a total of eight tower types. As the game progresses, more upgrades will become available to counter progressively more difficult enemies. Each level has a path leading up to and through the village; each enemy that makes it through the town picks up a fish. If they make it to the exit, you lose that fish. If you allow the town's entire supply to be stolen, it's game over.
It's extremely simple, wherein lies the first problem. The enemies do nothing but walk a path from beginning to end. They don't attack or interact with you in any way. Your only goal is to take out the various creatures before they can make it from one end of the path to the other. Once you set up your towers, there is not a lot to do but sit and watch them do their thing. You pick up money as you dispatch enemies, which will allow you to build more towers to prepare for the next wave, but you acquire credits very slowly, so there's not a lot of fast thinking to be done. Though this is nothing new for classic RTS fans, many children will find it hard to stay interested in this more 'hands-off' style of play.
Though much of the game is very straight forward, some elements may be too difficult for young children. If the game is played on normal, it actually can be quite difficult. If towers aren't placed just right, you won't be able to hold off the enemies, and you acquire credits so slowly, one mistake early in a stage can really screw you up. If you are a parent looking at this game for a young child, it's likely you will have to help them learn the basics before they are going to be able to play this game the way it was intended. You might even have some trouble yourself. Though the creators made it clear that this game was developed with kids under 12 in mind, it's likely many children in that age group will either give up or lose interest after only a few minutes.
The presentation can be a mixed bag as well. The artwork used to tell the story at the beginning is done very well, but when characters talk after every round, we're treated to still images of each character that never change. During gameplay, the stage is rendered using a combination of 3D environments with digitized flat objects overlaid, which works well. I had to look very close to determine which elements were 3D, and which were flat. I'm still not totally sure. The camera looks down on the action at an angle, so objects get smaller as you move away. The 2D elements are constantly changing size, which does cause some clarity and pixilation issues due to the DS's limited resolution, but it's not a major issue. The character and enemy models look decent, but the animations seem unpolished. Many of the enemies seem to walk like wind-up toys.
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