Curiosity is the folly of man. Those pesky humans tread where they do not belong, steal what isn't theirs, and dig into dark realms beyond their imagining. Their greed is a plague, and there's only one cure – giant smashy blocks! Tired of people raiding your elaborate tomb in search of treasure? Don't get mad; get even, with Defend Your Crypt from Ratalaika Games.
Stepping into the mouldy bandages of a long-dead Egyptian Pharaoh, this fast paced puzzle title has you utilising all manner of nasty deathtraps to protect your final resting place from nosy intruders. Retro visuals and a straightforward set of options make it a quick and simple title to get to grips with easily, and of course a helpful mummy is on standby to introduce how the game works with a series of brief tutorials.
Your goal is to stop an oncoming swarm of grave robbers from reaching the stash of treasure in the deepest depths of your tomb, by activating traps to put a bloody end to their excursion. The catch is that you don't actually place the traps yourself. Instead, they're already set up and you simply have to designate which ones to activate and when. At the start of each level you're given a set number of skulls, which act as a kind of currency you use to unlock different traps in any order you like. Larger, bloodier traps cost more than smaller pitfalls, but most of the challenge comes from the fact that you need to manually trigger each and every one of them at just the right time. In earlier levels this is quite easy to deal with, as adventurers and archaeologists come in ones and twos, but much larger groups later arrive with different attributes, and you'll need to weed out the faster, stronger explorers lest they cause some serious damage.
Killing enemies earns you more skulls, which can be used to purchase more ways to fight back in each level, but without any upgrade or progression system the game relies solely on different types of traps to keep things fresh. Thankfully there's a pretty decent selection of deathly devices to choose from, ranging from floor spikes and hidden wall arrows to large crushers that can eliminate groups of thieves in one messy splatter. There are even special chambers for particularly gruesome and lengthy traps, such as a room that slowly fills with water and cuts off that pathway for a time.
Each level takes place in a different crypt, which start off relatively small but eventually end up spanning across multiple screens that you toggle between when needed, adding to the chaos as you're overrun by intruders. They aren't randomly generated either, as each level follows a set pattern which can be memorised and taken advantage of to get the best results. There are 30 in total, and you're ranked on your performance in each one depending on how many enemies make it to the end. While the difficulty gradually increases along the main campaign, earning top marks in a level will help unlock a much harder mode that sends out tougher, faster enemies in different patterns. This helps encourage going for that one perfect run in order to get the highest rating, where no mistakes are made and all face the wrath of a grumpy Pharaoh.
After being activated traps need time to recharge, so there's an added element of planning and time management when choosing which ones to unlock and picking the perfect moment to set them off. Whenever a thief successfully makes it to the end, they pinch one of your three treasures, and once they're all gone it's game over and a walk of shame back to the afterlife.To avoid this from happening, you'll need to think less like this is a tower defense game, and more like a puzzle title based on repetition and mastering the system at hand. It's simple, sure, but it's pretty satisfying to completely clear the house and survive a wave of enemies unscathed.
Everything takes place on the Wii U GamePad, which is the only controller you can use due to the implementation of touchscreen controls. Tapping a trap sets it off, tapping locked traps will spend skulls to unlock them for future use, and everything feels pretty intuitive. The only really baffling decision was deciding to leave the TV screen displaying a fairly useless secondary view of the dig site above ground, but your eyes will be glued to the GamePad regardless. It's worth mentioning that the game is also available on the 3DS eShop, and given that we feel it's best played in shorter sessions, perhaps that's the version to go for. There aren't really any major differences between the two, so it's a matter of preference.
The visuals are peppered with charming touches and a surprising amount of blood, all rendered in a perfectly pixelated style that keeps dozens of enemies in check with a smooth framerate. Characters will exhibit fear and shock through goofy emoticons, while crisp lines of separation keep even the busiest crypts from feeling overcrowded or cramped. The music certainly isn't anything too special, and there are a few spelling errors to be found in the tutorial, but it's a solid package overall that nails the Egyptian aesthetic. Again, the visuals work particularly well on 3DS in this case, as it's easy to keep an eye on both screens at once.
We felt as though we excavated every last bit of fun out of the game after about 3 hours or so, which isn't too shabby given the low price. Keep in mind that there isn't any real variation in gameplay beyond what you learn in the first few minutes, so all the enjoyment comes from improving your timing and focusing on enemy patterns to succeed. There aren't dramatic bosses are any kind of gripping story to be had here - it's all just repetition of an admittedly solid system. If you're looking to kill time with something straightforward, this is an excellent choice, and an optional difficulty level with some built-in achievements helps to flesh out the content for those who want an extra challenge.
Although we're certainly in the company of undead kings, Defend Your Crypt doesn't have grand ambitions. Instead it aims to deliver a solid puzzle title with a unique twist on the tried and tested 'tower-defense' formula. The Egyptian setting alone is something you don't often see from the perspective of an undead Pharaoh, so while the gameplay is slightly repetitious there's still enough here to justify giving it a shot. We'd steer slightly towards the 3DS version due to it suiting shorter-form gameplay sessions more, but either option is a safe bet if you're looking for a neat puzzler to try out for a few hours. Rise from your grave....and defend it!