Orcs Must Die! is that child. It's supremely, almost unbearably goofy, but also well aware of its underlying strengths. And it’s bloody wonderful.
OMD! embraces its action stylings without apology, allowing the player to place defences whilst they merrily skip about the place, firing wildly and watching lumps of gore fly hither and thither across the screen. It doesn’t care that you want to employ optimal defence patterns, Grandad, it just wants you to have fun. How can you possibly deny it that?
As with anything these days there has to be a back story to justify the premise and, aside from it being borne of the standard fantasy fare, there’s enough good humour (although little actual good humour) in the telling that it remains fairly inoffensive throughout the course of the game. You play the part of an apprentice guardian tasked with defending the gateways to ... Oh, Hell, it doesn’t matter. You need to fight off wave after wave of orcs and other beasties in a varied succession of levels without letting a predefined number of them reach your base (or bases) before the final attack ends. That covers the basis of play entirely.
My favourite trick? Placing gunpowder barrels on spike traps as an explosive contingency plan. There is no greater joy than watching a final gang of orcs slip past you when you’ve one of these at your back. I’ve laughed like a maniac so many times whilst playing this game that I have to wonder if its not me that should be stopped.
In order to place traps and other helpful objects you’ll need to earn money from murdering enemies. If you string a bunch of kills together then you’ll receive an extra bonus that increases your chances of reaching a higher grade - rated in skulls - when the level ends. Skulls act as currency in upgrading traps outside of play, making your favourite devices more effective or cheaper to place. It’s a system that really rewards return plays because you won’t be expected to pass any of the levels with flying colours on the first attempt. The emphasis here is on experimentation. Well, that, and bloody murder.
At some point during your experience of OMD! you’ll wonder whether the game will ever stop expanding. I haven’t even touched upon the range of elemental spells at the guardian’s disposable. I haven’t mentioned the unlockable Nightmare mode at the end of the main campaign. And what about the research-trees that allow purchasable upgrades to increase cash flow and ability effects for a cash sacrifice mid-game? How on Earth can they pack so much into one tightly formed package? It’s honestly a wonder.
For everyone else, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s easy to learn, pleasantly addictive and incredibly rewarding in its unfettered diversity. You may get stuck, you may pull your hair out, but you’ll likely always be back for another go. Above all, this is a game about discovery and, despite it being determined to act the fool, I have found it consistently surprising in its efforts to please.