Stenches, a zombie-infused, real-time-strategy war game from Thunder Game Works, is now available from the app store. A follow-up to the well-received Trenches, Stenches builds upon the unlockable Zombie Horde mode to create a full-fledged standalone game.
- Great visual style
- Intuitive, easy-to-use control scheme
- Great mix of line-drawing and tower defense
- GameCenter integration for leaderboards and achievements
- Exciting, strategic gameplay
- Steep difficulty curve, even on Easy mode
- Soldiers don’t put up much of a fight
- Can’t play as zombies
- No multiplayer mode (yet)
- Tough to keep track of all units when spread out
- Somewhat repetitive
Stenches contains both a Campaign and Survival mode, where you face off as British soldiers against an army of the undead. Campaign offers 4 environments in which to do battle, with each subsequent locale unlocked by reaching the 15th wave in the previous place. There are at least 40 waves in each location, with an even higher total likely but unconfirmed due to our inability to get past level 20, even on Easy mode. For the adventurous (or crazy), there are two greater difficulty levels to try, too. Survival tasks you with reaching the greatest distance possible before being overrun by the never-ending throngs of brain-eaters.
Regardless of game mode, you begin from the left side of the level, purchasing military units with your collected coin resources. These units traverse the war-torn landscape, utilizing bunkers for cover and avoiding random lightning zaps and momentum-throttling barbed wire traps as you engage in conflicts with several types of zombies. Some zombies look like undead soldiers, easily taken out with a few shots. There are also fast-moving, animalistic zombies, large ground-thumping zombies, zombies that chuck other zombies a great distance, and large spider zombies that leave a poisonous gas trail after being killed. These enemies can require sustained gunfire to eliminate. You have a variety of units to select in defense, including riflemen, engineers, machine gunners, snipers, and more. You can also firebomb the opposition or call in an air strike. Each costs a certain amount of money and purchasing one requires you to wait for a short time before purchasing another. You collect money by tapping on the coins dropped by dead zombies, very much like collecting sunshine in Plants vs. Zombies. Engineers are helpful, insofar as they can reinforce bunkers for greater protection. Riflemen travel in groups, while machine gunners fire their weapons at a faster rate. None, however, appear to be able to withstand much of an attack from the zombies, succumbing quickly during even minor altercations, which can be quite frustrating. Once the zombies reach your final bunker, they destroy it and the game ends.
There is a great deal of strategy involved, as simply rushing across the map with only a unit or two spells a quick death. If the zombies get a short distance past your defenses, there is virtually no chance that you can stop them from marching right to your bunker and defeating your army. It’s easy to be overrun unless you travel in dense groupings. Bunkers can only hold so many soldiers, so it will become necessary to advance your armies in staggered waves for effective protection and the greatest chance for swift victory. It is imperative to continue purchasing units as often as possible, as Stenches really breaks down to a numbers game. Falling behind could be disastrous. You must strike a fine balance between buying new units, directing them to advantageous positions, and monitoring forward units to ensure their viability. The game can get quite frantic, and at times frustrating, but it remains fun no matter how things turn out.
Graphically, Stenches has a very polished cartoon style about it, with the zombies having visibly distinct looks while the soldiers are all fairly identical, save for their weapon type. Your coin count is in the upper left corner, and your score is in the upper right. Selectable units reside along the bottom of the screen. Each has a spawn timer underneath to indicate how long you must wait until you can select it. If you have enough coins, the icon glows yellow. The soundtrack is high quality, providing a brooding tune as the backdrop for the serious action. Controls are touch and gesture based, as you tap icons to spawn new units and tap coins to collect. Drag your finger from any unit to their target location and they will follow. Two-finger drag allows you to force all units to advance or retreat. Dragging the sky in the background adjusts your view so that you can find units off-screen or locate the position of the enemies. Artillery is used by dragging from the icon to the desired location on-screen. Options exist to allow accelerometer control of camera movements, as well as toggle auto-advancing of your troops.
Replay value is very good, as little changes in strategy can have significantly different outcomes. Honing your strategy can be quite addictive. GameCenter integration allows for global leaderboards and achievements. Stenches does not include many of the exciting additions to Trenches, such as Skirmish mode or multiplayer options, but we could very well see these show up in future updates, which would really improve the replay value of the game. As it stands, for the launch price of $0.99, you can’t go wrong with this 4-Dimple stud.