I’m currently playing Army Of Darkness HD on the iPad. It’s a tower-defence game and it’s not very good, but I have to admire its optimism.
The way the game works is this; players take control of Ash – “Shop Smart. Shop S-MART!” – and they have to fend off a large army of Deadites. As they survive wave after after wave of grinning skeletons carrying an assortment of vicious gardening implements, they unlock more units, special powers and accouterments for Ash including a chainsaw strapped to his arm stump (natch) and an ever more powerful boom-stick. They buy said upgrades with in-game cash they earn for each Deadite they send back to… wherever the hell Deadites come from in the first place. The Deadites, for their part, start wielding bigger and nastier gardening implements, such as maces and lances.
It’s not a great game, but I find it weirdly compelling in a way, and hey, it was free through the AppShopper app. It’s exactly what I’d expect from a movie tie-in game; simplistic setting, uninspiring layout and graphics, idiot-proof controls and about as much depth as a People Magazine article.
Still, AOD HD has one feature which confuses me; the game gives you the option to buy in-game cash using your hard-earned real-world cash. This begs the question: who in their right mind would do such a stupid thing? This seriously doesn’t compute.
Here’s the thing, AOD HD isn’t as much of a dog’s dinner as some disposable tat I’ve played on the iPad, but it isn’t great either. It’s a bog-standard tower defence game. It has no mini-games. No bonus features. No extra content. It’s not triple A by any means. It’s less B-standard than most of Bruce Campbell’s back catalogue (Maniac Cop? Anyone?). In terms of the genre, something like Crystal Defenders has it for breakfast and really, it’s not even allowed to look in the general direction of Plants Vs Zombies. It’s serviceable, but it boasts hardly any tactical elements. The idea is to grind and grind and grind until you have enough in-game cash to beat the next wave. Then you rinse and repeat.
The grind aspect is what I find confusing. Since the game forces the player into a hypnotic war of attrition – and since this is what keeps them playing in the first place – I don’t know where the developers get the idea that gamers will shell out real cash to beat another level. Anyone with an attention span short enough to be seduced by the option to buy their way into more levels won’t be attracted to this game in the first place. Players who are used to games which require grind – RPGs, JRPGs, MMOs – will looks at the price list for in-game cash and scoff. Scoff, I tell you! Speaking personally, the prospect of a near-endless grind doesn’t put me off. After Fallout 3, Borderlands and World Of Warcraft, AOD HD doesn’t have what it takes to make me open my wallet. Besides I have many, many plane rides ahead of me…