As potentially misleading titles go, Dictator Defense is right up there with Steven Seagal’s 1997 eco-action film, Fire Down Below. Alas, Digital Chocolate’s latest isn’t the Hague war crimes trial simulator you may have been hankering for.
Rather, what we have is a rather neat mobile tower defence game. You set out your units in a defensive position in preparation for the relentless downwards march of enemy troops.
Once you’ve cleared a number of waves (the object being to protect your rear wall) you’ll come against the level’s dictator, an amusing parody of a popular militaristic figure. Let’s just say that the first one, Big George, wears a cowboy hat and a familiar, slightly gormless face. Zing.
The units you deploy take the form of passive blockades, banks (to earn you more money) and offensive units such as soldiers and flame-throwers. You also have access to a smart bomb of sorts - a Rambo-aping hero who sweeps over the field in his chopper - once per level.
Access to these units branches steadily, gradually opening up new tactical possibilities. Each unit can also be upgraded up to four times, though you only get to make one upgrade per level, and then only if your rear wall remains intact.
As you’d expect from a Digital Chocolate game, the presentation is exemplary and bursting with character. There’s a well judged comic tone to proceedings that contrasts nicely with the intense combat, and the giant dictators in particular are a sight to behold.
It’s not all positive, however. Success in Dictator Defense is always balanced on a knife edge. You’re usually only one breach away from disaster, which makes the random enemy spawning something of a mixed blessing.
While this keeps you on your toes and forces you to adapt, you do find that you’ll fail certain levels before you’re able to form a full defense due to, for example, two RPG-wielders turning up simultaneously on a single ‘lane.’ There’s often nothing you can do to counteract such an occurrence, leading to a frustrating restart.
Other times the enemy spread is extremely kind to you, allowing you to build up a formidable defence with minimal losses.
Despite these balancing issues, though, Dictator Defense is a unique and compelling mobile experience, and one that I found myself returning to out of more than mere obligation.