Trenched is the latest game developed by Double Fine Productions and produced by Microsoft Game Studios exclusively for XBLA. This is the third game in Double Fine’s four game downloadable title project, joining the previously released Costume Quest and Stacking. The final game in this project is Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster, which is scheduled for release later this year.
Trenched presents players with an alternate reality vision of life on Earth shortly after World War I in which a mysterious radio transmission known only as “The Broadcast” has wiped out most of civilization. Two veterans who survived WWI, Frank Woodruff and Vladamir Farnsworth found themselves altered by the broadcast and instilled with knowledge of advanced technology. Woodruff, who lost all of his limbs during the war, used his knowledge to create large, armored, mobile platforms known as “Mobile Trenches” to allow other wounded soldiers to return to the battlefield in service of their country. Farnsworth, on the other hand, driven mad by his exposure to the broadcast created a race of robotic menaces known as “Monovisions” to help spread the broadcast to all mankind as part of his plans for world domination. These abominations, composed largely of cathode ray tubes, became simply known as “Tubes” and Woodruff marshaled his “Mobile Trench Brigade” to defeat this new evil and save humanity.
Environments & Graphics
While Trenched is not meant to be photo-realistic and has somewhat of an arcade look, the environments are finely detailed. Similarly, both the Trench Brigade equipment and weapons and the Monovision creatures are intricately crafted. There are numerous options available for player’s trench chassis and weapons, their emplacements (turrets) as well as uniforms and helmets for their characters. There are even paint options to further increase the customization of each player’s rig.
Combat is spread out over three campaign theaters, Europe, Africa and the Pacific. Each theater has several combat zones each of which affords its own look and style variation on the overall theater theme. While each location has a distinct look and feel, the Monovision infestations provide unifying elements that tie all of the locations together.
The audio in Trenched is surprisingly rich for a downloadable game. The Trench units all have a weighty, mechanical sound that conveys their massive sizes beautifully. Each chassis/leg combination, however, has its own slight variation on the basic mechanical sound to convey its particular adaptations. Similarly, each weapon has its own distinct firing and reloading intonations. On the other side of the battlefield, the various tubes each have their own screeches and wails that make them easily distinguishable from one another.
As players have come to expect from Double Fine games, the dialogue in Trenched is quirky and often times hilarious. The conversation between Woodruff and the player during the mission briefings will frequently leave players wondering if they actually heard what they thought they heard. These shining moments come in contrast, however, to the often mundane and repetitive instructions uttered by Woodruff or the player’s character during combat. The repetitive nature of the dialog during battles can be easily overlooked since the player’s focus in primarily centered on planning and launching counterattacks.
Trenched is a unique hybrid of a classic Tower Defense game and a Third-Person Shooter. During mission briefings, players are presented with an overall map of the battlefield and a synopsis of the mission objective. After the briefing, players are then afforded the opportunity to reconfigure and reequip their mobile unit in order to most easily complete their objective. Rather than merely providing basic suggestions, players are given up to two criteria, which must be met in their mech configurations before they are allowed to proceed into battle. The objective of most fights is to protect a target or targets from waves of tube attacks. Unlike typical tower defense games, however, protecting each object is not accomplished by moving troops and building structures on a map and then watching from a distance as the fights ensue. Instead, players are thrust onto the front line of combat and must actively partake in each conflict. The strategy aspect comes not only in determining the best way to equip one’s trench but also in how to disperse the available emplacements to cut off enemy routes to the target. Trenched, however, is not a slow paced game with ample time to strategize between attacks. Players are only allotted a scant few seconds between battles to collect enough scrap to build their emplacements, determine which type they want to build and place them before the next enemy attack.
Each chassis has slots for up to six weapons, three per trigger, and up to four emplacements, which are mapped to the d-pad. This flexibility gives players a wide array of firepower at their disposal. Unfortunately, this is not completely true. As stated above, each mission has a set of prerequisites that must be met before players can start. Therefore, even though players may have more than fifty weapon and emplacement options available, they are limited to only a few combinations that will actually meet the loadout requirements. As players progress through the campaign and improve their armaments, the game similarly increases the difficulty by introducing new enemy types and larger, more varied waves of combat in each round so that players rarely feel grossly over matched with their opponents.
The Trenched campaign can be played as both a single player game as an online cooperative multiplayer game for up to four players. Unfortunately, localized co-op is not supported. Players can either invite friends to play over xbox live or go to the “Radio Room” and search for other random online players.
Trenched is a wonderfully unique blend of classic tower defense games and third-person shooters infused with the humor and quirkiness on which Double Fine has made their reputation. If you enjoy either type of game, Trenched is definitely worth your time. If you are a long time fan of Double Fine’s work, stop reading this review and start your download!
Trenched is currently available on Xbox Live Arcade for $15 (US) / 1200 MS Points