Who's a good dog? You are… well, most of the time.
When you put a bunch of cute, fluffy, little woodland creatures against a ravenous horde of the undead, it's safe to say that we all know who will win that fight. Well, most of the time. With Paladog!, the latest defense game for the iPhone, it turns out that the fuzzy wuzzies have some pretty substantial teeth and they're not afraid to take a bite out of the Soulless Legions of Evil.
The game takes place on a future Earth, one where humanity has been wiped out by angry gods. As a result, fuzzy animals have evolved into the dominant species on the planet and have lived in peace for quite some time. However, the forces of darkness finally decide to rise up and wipe everybody out. A hero arises in the form of Paladog, a heroic Scottish Terrier that leads his animal brethren in the war against all that's evil.
The basic idea with the game is that it's a mix of real-time strategy and defense games. The main "Wipe Out" play mode requires players wait for resources (food, in this case) to accumulate so they can build units to attack the enemy fortress on the map. For players, there's no fortress to defend, but they'll automatically lose a level is Paladog is killed. Because the hero can move around a map, do special attacks, and bestow special abilities to troops within his aura field, players will want to keep him involved in every battle, but they also need to keep him safe from enemy attacks.
There are three other mission types that pop up during the campaign: "Escort", "Destiny", and "Battlefield." Escort is exactly what it sounds like: a unit has to be protected by player units while it inches across the map. Destiny, meanwhile, has a conveyor belt that feeds players with a supply of spells and units that are put into play, the general goal being to survive until the level's timer runs out.
Battlefield levels, meanwhile, are the most RTS-like of the bunch. Paladog sits in a corner of the map as a commanding officer and players place advancing units in one of five different rows to combat the advancing enemies. Rows are captured when a unit manages to make it all the way across the screen, and a level is won when a majority of the rows are captured.
Progress in the game is slow going. Unlocking new units costs an increasingly large amount of gold and further upgrades carry an ever-growing price tag. While this is normal going with such games, the cost for new units is pretty hefty. Meanwhile, enemy armies have an ever-growing variety of character types to throw at player forces. As a result it quickly becomes necessary to replay earlier levels multiple times just to build up enough gold to keep on unlocking units in order to beat new ones. That's really a bit frustrating when there are over 100 levels to play through.
Visually, the game is pretty adorable. The character designs are clever and cute (one of my favorites was a walking TV amidst the forces of evil), and individual units are animated really nicely. The levels, too, look great. There are a total of five different territories in the game (with 24 levels per territory), and each has a different theme that's reflected in the levels. The soundtrack is also appropriately epic, but there's no option to play music from the iPhone's library in the game.
Paladog! is cute and charming, but it quickly wears out its welcome because if forces you to replay levels way too many times if you want to keep advancing. There's a lot to do in the game, but the fact that players have to repeat their battles if they want to succeed wears down on its lasting appeal, especially when there's so much content to play through.