Choose your tapping tower defense game.
Remember that Brütal Legend game Double Fine made a few years ago? It was billed as an awesome, sprawling adventure game with a cool car and a heavy metal motif and Jack Black as the main character? It was awesome, right? Well, it was awesome until about two hours in, when it suddenly turned into a real-time strategy tower defense game. At that point, the game fell off my radar completely, and I never picked it up again. Devil Band is a little bit like Brütal Legend in that it’s a metal-motif game, but it’s geared entirely around tower defense and makes no bones about being anything else. The main characters rest somewhere between hair metal and emo, and they play music while their fans (who all do different things) hold off a mob of hellish monsters.
The game is repetitious to the extreme, though oddly engaging. The fans basically provide a wall between the band and the undead hordes, leaving you to awkwardly select and drag fans from four drop-down menus to a square on a grid in front of the band to attack the creatures. I’m going to give you a win-button tip right now: while you can select any band member, you should always pick the girl. She has a tap-attack that does good damage for every tap, while other band members’ attacks are crippled by excessive lag or cool-down. This means, of course, you’ll be tapping the bottom screen like an obsessive-compulsive crazy person, but it will win you matches.
You unlock more fans the longer you play. Initially, you only have roadblock fans with limited HP and no attack. Dropping units costs energy, and you’ll have to wait for the bar to reload to select new units. Roadblock fans actually produce energy, so you should pepper the battlefield with those guys first. Eventually, you’ll get dudes who throw things (rocks, Molotov cocktails, snowballs), dudes who charge forward and are gone forever, and dudes who stand their ground and explode when an enemy comes too close. After each successful round, you can upgrade your fans with money you’ve earned by killin’ monsters, and assign stat points to any band members who’ve managed to level up.
The graphics aren’t great. No singular character sprite looks good or animates well, and I can’t tell if it’s slowdown or just plain poor animation that causes your fans to throw objects with all the speed and fury of a paper airplane. Even at their highest levels, nobody does much damage, either. You will win matches by selecting the girl and tapping the ever-living hell out of every monster on screen. Other band members will unenthusiastically launch their own attacks every once and awhile, but the only useful one is the lightning dude—what with his multi-enemy attack and stun ability. Sound wave guy and earthquake fella are entirely useless, even completely leveled up.
Not like the enemy designs are any better. There are six or seven types, sure, but aside from the one who spits… something… they don’t do anything other than mob the fans. Instead of different enemies, you just get palate swaps as the game progresses. The music is appallingly repetitious and awful. Turn the volume down and listen to a podcast instead.
Despite, or maybe because of, these flaws, Devil Band is surprisingly engaging in a rote sort of way. I can’t say I ever actually enjoyed myself while playing it, but I didn’t hate it, either. It is the least complex tower defense game I’ve ever played, which I sort of appreciate, but at the same time I find myself wanting a better game. It by no means has made me a tower defense fan, but it hasn’t driven me away from the genre, either.