Beneath its hardened tower defence exterior, Vanpool's The Rolling Western is a love letter to Zelda fans.

The artistic styling of Wind Waker paints each Hyrule Field-sized battlefield with colour, and Spirit Tracks's pan flute arrangements provide a fitting soundtrack as Dillon bounds around like Goron Link did in an uncanny world doomed by a falling moon.

Some nods are easier to spot - the dramatic treasure chest opening sequence, the collection of heart pieces - but it's clear that Zelda's very best mechanics and ideas that have been cherry-picked here.

Rolling in the deep

And don't get us started on the mysterious muted hero.
Dillon's a ranger for hire, rolling into troubled towns that require his services over three days and nights (another throwback to Majora's Mask's 72-hour condition), protecting their plump pig-like Scrogs from the night-raiding Grock - rock monsters with an appetite for the town's swine.

As the sun rises over each new day, you'll be required to gather Scruffles to amass a steady Scrog count, visit mines to collect ores and gems, and ensure your defences are in check for the evening's events.

When the skies turn red, it's time to deal with the Grock assault.

Any offences you've set up - including towers armed with shotguns, mini-guns, and cannons - will slow down the enemy's journey, but you'll have to take the fight to the Grocks yourself.

You gotta roll with it

Rolling into an approaching attacker initiates Battle mode, in which you have to dispatch multiple foes using a series of roll, swipe, and grind moves.

New obstacles will crop up regularly, with some enemies requiring you to dish out more damage within a certain time limit while others demand patience as you seek out their weaknesses.

Whatever the case, getting the job done quickly is imperative - as you fight one-on-one, action on the battlefield persists.

When the day is at an end, Dillon retires to a saloon to recap the day's performance, purchase new equipment, and deal with any side mission requests from the locals.

This process is repeated over the next two days, with a decreasing amount of time for scavenging goods and increasingly more brutal nightly attacks.

Keep rollin, rollin, rollin, rollin

For a company that rarely dabbles in the genre, Nintendo's first attempt comes off rather well, but with many issues apparent from the outset.

There's no obvious way to tell how much time you have remaining during your daily scavenge, your partner only chiming in to alert you of the sky's orange warning state.

But it's the controls that cause the most problems. Constantly dragging your stylus down the screen keeps Dillon revved up to zoom around the field, with the Circle Pad acting as a steering wheel.

Previous control schemes have proved troublesome in the past for left-handed gamers, and with no gyro or Circle Pad pro support to remedy the problem The Rolling Western is an uncomfortable slog for southpawed gamers.

Combat is a little less of a strain. You can fire at targets with slingshot-style stylus controls, and a variety of moves add a little extra punch.

Pressing and holding the stylus as you hit will cause Dillon to grind against the target. Time your taps and you'll be able to pull off swipes that build up a combo.

We built this city on...

Dillon's ten stops should keep you satisfied, with each three-day cycle lasting up to an hour and star-ratings adding replay value for completists.

It's not quite on a par with the eShop offerings that have seen the digital store flourish in recent months, but The Rolling Western is a clever hybrid of tower defence and action that's a few tweaks and a control overhaul short of being essential.

Rather than rely on a hefty Zelda influence, The Rolling Western successfully carves its own path in an oversubscribed genre.