‘Trenched’ is beautiful and fun love-child of strategy tactics, witty humor and action shooting

By Glenn Battishill

“Trenched” is an Xbox Live Arcade title released as part of XBLA’s “Summer of Arcade” event. It sells for 1200 Microsoft points ($15) and is easily one of the best tower defense games released on Xbox Live.

Developed by Double Fine Productions after 2009’s “Brutal Legend”, “Trenched” is a hybrid of third-person shooting and tower defense set in a alternate post-WW I world where a mysterious signal has given two disabled men hyper intelligence. One uses his gift to create artificial legs, which led to walking gun platforms called “trenches”, while the other uses his intelligence to create sentient television monsters called “tubes”, which he plans to use to take over the world.

“Trenched” occupies the weird niche of people who like strategy/tower defense games but feel like their turrets can be stupid sometime and would rather pick up a cannon themselves and fend off the enemy. Until now, the only game that offered that kind of experience was the excellent but challenging “Toy Soldiers” and the South Park game “Let’s go tower defense play!” to a lesser degree.

The gameplay puts players in charge of their own trenches and sends them on missions with varying objectives and difficulties. Customization plays a big part in trenched. Completing levels rewards players with money and more weapons and trench parts that they can use to upgrade their trench.

The customization works so well in this game. Different chassis offer different amounts of weapons and deployable turrets. For example, one chassis might offer six weapon slots but only two smaller turret slots. The diversity of the weapons and turret types really allows any type of player to succeed.

Levels work like most tower defense games; enemies of varying types spawn in waves and make their way through a set path to your base, which they must destroy. Players can shoot at the tubes, put down turrets to do it for them, or anything in between. Equal parts strategy and action, “Trenched” is a triumph of execution.

Levels are fun and varied, while enemies are recognizable but sometimes predictable.

The story moves about how you’d expect; go to place “A”, destroy object “B”, get surprised when the objective is actual at location “C” but its never so predictable that its annoying.

The writing of Tim Shafer’s Double Fine Productions has always been their forte and “Trenched” is no exception. Most of the villain’s lines are plays on other villain lines and always manage to get a laugh from me.

By far though, the best part of the whole game is the multiplayer. The game features four-player co-op and adds so much to an already deep game. Players can communicate, work out a strategy beforehand and alter their trenches in preparation. Profit from levels is shared between players so that no one player is profiting while the others fight for the leftovers.

As with all action games based around leveling up and custom¬ization, grinding (that’s repeating tasks over and over in order to level up or gain experience) is something players striving to complete all of the challenges will do a lot of.

Compared to “Toy Soldiers”, the game is definitely easier. “Toy Soldiers” had a problem with not giving players enough options to complete each mission, with missions usually having one specific way they needed to be done. But with “Trenched” players can complete most levels in dozens of different ways.

The game can feel short if you run through it, but it took me around 10 hours to complete and I’m still working to complete all of the challenges.

On the short end of the stick, the difficulty ramps up on single-player, and most of the Europe levels are easy, like Sunday morning with four people. It can take a little while to learn how to use some of the more complex tactics, but the game encourages innovation and trying new weapons and tactics.

Minor tediousness aside, the game is flawless. Guns rock the controller as you pull the trigger and the balance between all of the weapon classes is well thought out. All in all an A+ game for an awe-some price.