The blood. The smoke. The little exploding cartoon men. War is Hell. Recreating the feel of battle with a cartoony spin is Trenches Generals, the latest spin on the tower defence subgenre, updated from the recent iOS version for WiiWare with updated AI, levelling-up system, content and more. But is this an explosive experience, or should you throw it away like a live grenade?
The main task at hand is to send the British army from their base on the far left side of the screen to the Germans' base on the far right to blow it up. Both camps spawn five varieties of soldiers with different strengths, weaknesses and weaponry as well as launch bursts of long-range firepower and toxic gas, all of which regenerate with time. By clicking their designated symbol from a menu at the bottom of the screen, you deploy them from your base to begin heading toward the enemy. Along the way they'll fight, gain ground, lose ground and so on.
You'll also upgrade trenches into bunkers with a specific type of soldier, adding a much-needed strategic element to the mix. Not only do these protect your men more effectively, they provide new spawning points as well as long as your army holds them. You can also direct specific groups of soldiers or control your entire army by holding the A and B buttons and swinging the Wii Remote, ordering them to advance, retreat or hold their ground. As you move along you'll halt when in close enough proximity to the enemy, then battle and hopefully move on, constantly clicking the deploy buttons. It soon becomes a bit too hectic to formulate much of a strategy beyond securing bunkers, and as the mental engagement suffers, the tedium sets in. It also doesn't help that beyond aesthetics, every level is basically the same terrain-wise.
Campaign Mode sees you face an entire campaign of these battles as well as others with specific goals, like keeping certain soldiers alive, holding a specific bunker or lasting past wave after wave of marauding Nazis. There's also a Skirmish Mode for quick, customisable battles – Zombies is one type, though it's mostly an endurance test of more of the same. The split-screen Multiplayer Mode allows you to duke it out with a friend in either a normal battle or a capture-the-flag-like game, or you can fight on the same team.
As Campaign Mode picks up and becomes more difficult, the level of engagement follows suit, and battling it out can easily become quite entertaining. In fact, it's a lot of fun at times – but at the end of the day, it's just too simplistic to warrant much extended play. It's fun to go up against a friend, but this mode still suffers from the same issues. The game includes three save files and three difficulty settings, adding to the replay value and level of accessibility as even Normal mode can provide quite a challenge at times. Online Multiplayer would prove a welcome addition, but it's sadly absent here.
While the control interface is simple and the menus easy to understand before long, the developers have very poorly mapped one action to the Wii Remote – that of commanding your whole army at once, holding A and B while gesturing in a specific direction. More often than not the game didn't know whether we wanted to send our men forward or back, many times not even registering the command or scrolling left and right instead. This can become quite frustrating, especially when you're trying to send troops away from a burgeoning gas cloud only to have them enter it at full speed. Selecting individuals is somewhat clunky as well – you basically have to command the few that occupy the general area directly surrounding the on-screen pointer, tell them where to go, then come back for more. A method of dragging a box around the soldiers or any number of other alternatives would definitely have improved this function.
The game looks good as well, with very likeable cartoony art direction and some quite impressive background art and parallax scrolling. There are some amusing vocals as well, and overall the game sounds good, although the music cuts out unexpectedly at times and the choking on gas sound effect is just a tad too realistic. There are also a few bugs as well, including some odd visual and audio blips and some obnoxious game freezing.
Trenches Generals is a lot of fun once Campaign Mode picks up, but it's all just too basic and repetitive to become very compelling. It's not a bad game, it just lends itself to tedium. The gameplay seems much better suited to quick bursts on its original iOS format, though it still works as a decent time-waster. It's not a dud, then, it just doesn't burn brightly enough.