WARNING: NOT EDUCATIONAL! NOT FOR YOUNGER KIDS! INCLUDES DWARVES THAT CURSE!
Bottom Line: I'm taking a break from the norm today, as a Father's Day gift to myself, to review my all-time favorite iPad app.
I love Kingdom Rush HD. I know people throw that term around very freely nowadays, but in this case it is said with a real understanding of the depths of that word in mind. I've beaten the game twice and am almost finished a third time and I start to feel depressed when I get close to the end. I expect that one day I'll be playing with the holographic iPad 17th generation wishing they had a version of Kingdom Rush to play on it and scoffing to my great-grandchildren about the good 'ole days. I will have to take several breaks while working on this review, as writing about it will make me want to play it.
Kingdom Rush HD is a tower defense game. This genre is easy to understand: You build different kinds of towers to defend your kingdom, planet, or whatever the case may be in that specific game, and hordes of different kinds of enemies attack. If your towers stop them over a certain number of levels, you win.
That's right. Dwarves with giant cannons. Did I mention they curse?
Each of these towers can be upgraded and that's where the magic of the app starts to shine through. Sure, archers in a medieval-type world, that's easy...but after a few upgrades, the archer towers can become two musketeer snipers. The dwarf cannon can become a missile launcher. And the soldiers in the militia barracks can turn into barbarians who fight with no shirts on and throw axes.
As if that weren't enough, each of the towers and upgrades has its own catchphrase. When the dwarven tower reaches the Big Bertha stage, the dwarves yell, "Say hello to my little friend" from Scarface. When they reach each of three missile-launcher levels, they say "Yippee-ki-yay, m..." from Die Hard, with the profanity bleeped out.
One of the upgraded Mage towers says, "Do or do not. There is no try," which is a Yoda quote. The mage hero (superhero like characters can be brought in to fight for your side) says, "It's a kind of magic" which was the title and title song of Queen's 12th album and also on the Highlander soundtrack. Someone somewhere is, right now, putting together a website about all of the pop-culture references in Kingdom Rush.
The app's fantastic, quirky sense of humor strikes at the very core of a 35-45 year old gamer and is its most endearing quality.
On the enemy side, the developers were just as creative and awesome. There are the to-be-expected goblins, orcs, and giant spiders, but there are also evil trees, abominable snowmen, evil knights with jet packs and a boss named Vaz'nan who mocks you during his entire level, including saying, "All your base are belong to us."
Put it all together and there are, literally, parts of this app where musketeer snipers shoot at abominable snowmen while dwarves bomb them shouting the catchphrase from Die Hard.
You build the towers, manipulate and upgrade them during the levels and the horde of baddies tries to make it past. Simple gaming at its genius best, but it gets very, very hard on the highest levels.
The violence is cartoonish, far less than an older child (9+) will have seen if they have watched TV or played video games for any amount of time, although there are Facebook and Twitter links. There are also in-app purchases. Consider the above and decide if it's something that is appropriate and would be fun for someone in your house. And then remind them to not forget to eat.
It's not for everyone, certainly, but I cannot recommend Kingdom Rush enough. I don't think I have ever gotten more enjoyment from a $2.99 investment.
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This review was written by Ron Engel, the editor of smartappsforkids.com, who gets excited every time his app store icon has a number over it because he thinks it might be an update to Kingdom Rush HD.