If you haven’t played Trenched, well I’m sorry – you’re never going to. Double Fine was forced to change the name due to some copyright dispute in Europe over a board game I’ve never heard of – but don’t despair…. You can now play the same game called “Iron Brigade” instead!
Normally, game acquisition for the WOTS team follows a familiar arc. agent86 does the scouting report, ear-marks the games to watch, reads reviews, compiles analysis, consults the oracle, reads some tea leaves and then declares the winners. One day this summer he mentioned that Trenched was something we should check out. I then turned on my XBox with my wallet dialed to promiscuous… only to find that it wouldn’t be out for months. In such situations I can rarely leave without buying something. That day I believe a $15 map pack for Black Ops made the cut. Those always seem pricey to me… but what else was I supposed to do – buy nothing?
Well, it was worth the wait. The co-op play is engaging and plenty of fun. The mix of “tower defense” style and mech 3rd person combat just really works. agent86 quickly adopted the role of an engineer, patiently grooming his turret zen gardens (of destruction!). I on the other hand went the less predictable route, and strapped the biggest guns to my mobile trench that money could buy. Most levels were fun at the normal difficulty, and challenging on the harder one – but not impossible. Boss battles felt sufficiently epic on the first play through, and there was plenty of enemy variety to force some strategic thinking as well.
The plot was “Double Fine”-tastic, and definitely humorous on the first play through. Certain cut scenes get a little old if you get stuck in one spot, especially on the harder difficulties, but that’s not such a big deal for most of the game. The game does have a few warts – most notably the confusion that results from a pick up game with anonymous internet douchebags. agent86 and I once attempted to play a 4 man game with a gentleman that refused to play anything but one given map. Any time we tried to start a different map, he’d just stop the countdown and switch it back. Mind you, he joined our game. Frustrating – possibly game wrecking if you don’t have a solid group of friends to play with. For the most part, agent86 and I just 2 manned it, and this wasn’t an issue. When push came to shove, we’d stand near the offender repeatedly using the games built in emotes of “salutes” or “rude gestures” – then ultimately quit. Being able to give someone the “boot of justice” would feel far more satisfying though.
On another note, I’d love to see more ranks and weapons. The campaign feels a little short, but not for the price of an XBLA game. It seems like they could have expanded the replay value by two or three times just by adding a little more a few more ranks and more powerful versions of the same weapons. Maybe the weapons would be overpowered, but to get them, you’d already have needed to play through the game multiple times anyway – so why not?
Despite a few minor flaws, “Iron Brigade” is a must buy if you love co-op, tower defense, or mech games. It’s pithy humor and innovative gameplay elements will remind you of the best times you had playing games like Mechwarrior, while at the same time delivering something new and different to enjoy.