Stripped down, the progression of most games is all about giving you new toys while increasing the toughness of the environment in which you play.
Castle Frenzy provides a textbook example. This 3D castle defence game has you warding off the attacks of goblins, trolls, warlocks, skeletons, and dark elves who materialise to break down your castle's front door.
Each wave is set during a short day-night cycle and your role is to make sure you beat off each attack with a combination of finger gestures and magical spells, which you upgrade between waves.
Your basic move is to flip enemies into the air. Weak ones will die or be stunned when they fall back to the ground. You can also juggle them in the air for combo points. Alternatively, stronger or magical enemies need to be smashed hard into the floor or outer wall of the castle. They make a satisfying splat on impact.
Indeed, the sound effects in Castle Frenzy are one of its best features. They are fantastic, and when combined with the animated 3D characters - and the suitably gory clouds of blood and mists of captured souls that are emitted - demonstrate the quality work of Gameloft's Bulgaria studio.Serpentine pet
By far the most fun, and fundamental, part of the gameplay is your hydra. This multiple-headed serpent lives under your drawbridge and can be use to chomp up most kinds of enemies, although big chaps require an upgrade to the three-headed version for extra jaw power.
Upgrades are purchased between waves in the shop, requiring a combination of collected gold and souls. The only way you get souls is to feed enemies to your hydra. This forces you to make tactical decisions about which defences you want to buy and upgrade because you always have less souls than you could use.
Along with the hydra, you can purchase a griffin, fire and ice spells, various lightning-type spells, and reinforced doors - your last line of defence.
None is as enjoyable to use as the hydra, though. You can either hold your victim in front of its jaws like feeding a pet or swipe across one of its heads to get it to munch whatever happens to marching nearby. The crunching of bones is highly satisfying.
This action does take time, however - something you don't have a lot of in Castle Frenzy. The clue's in the title.Quick, quick tips
Your fingers must always be on the move. For the first half, you're mainly flicking things into the air, but as you get further in the direction shifts and you're bashing things into the ground. You can throw things offscreen to give yourself some breathing space, even if they return in a second or two.
Another example of Castle Frenzy's quality in terms of game design is the way it introduces items which have a double use. Most simply, you can throw down the trolls, using them to squash goblins.
Alternatively, if you pick a goblin off the back of a boar, the boar will then reverse direction, knocking over anything in its path as it makes its escape. Similarly, the bombs certain goblins drop can be thrown, or, like an ad-hoc minefield, left to blow up the incoming forces.
I particularly liked the eeeeeekks! of the goblins when they get blown up.
In fact, if there's any criticism to be levelled at the game, it's that you're not really encouraged to try out multiple strategies. Sure, there are various challenges and achievements to unlock, and points to be won on Gameloft LIVE! for using the griffin and freeze spell, but frankly the hydra (and perhaps a touch of fireballs) are just too much fun not to be used as much as possible.
In almost every respect, then, when it comes to castle defence, Castle Frenzy has a strong claim to be the king of the genre.