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Released: February 22, 2012
Nintendo’s 3DS eShop has been on a bit of a good run lately with Mutant Mudds, Pushmo, Mighty Switch Force, and Sakura Samurai all showing that the old, old, OLD dog still has something to offer the world in the way of original IPs. Beyond that, it let us breath a hesitant sigh of relief as it seems they’ve figured out how this whole digital service idea is supposed to work.
Dillon’s Rolling Western is the next would-be gem to hit the e-service, featuring a completely original character, unique controls, and a fresh approach to the tower defense genre. I quite like it.
You play as Dillon, a feisty young Armadillo who is also, luckily, a “Ranger,” or so he says. Dillon travels from town to town protecting them from attacks by the vicious Grocks, essentially just walking rocks. You’ll have to collect scruffles to feed each town’s scrogs (scruffle hogs). The more scruffles you collect, the more scrogs a town has, and the more buffer you have when the grocks come to eat the scrogs, and…. damn, those are ridiculous names. I actually had to take notes when I first started playing.
Grocks = Enemy
Scruffle = Resource
Scrog = Cattle
Regardless of how ridiculous the naming is, Dillon spends three days in each of 10 towns collecting scruffles, taking quests, and fighting grocks.
Building and upgrading towers is an integral part of the game, but you’ll be focused entirely on the mano-a-dillo combat when things get dirty. Battles come in waves of increasing difficulty with one wave taking their shot at you per day.
Prior to the invasion, some time is allotted to ensure that you won’t be completely overrun. Preparedness really is key. You’ll take this time to build/upgrade towers, become acquainted with your surroundings (you have to know the shortcuts), and explore various mines and ruins for resources and heart pieces. After your defenses are set up and the sun goes down, it’s on.
Attacks are performed entirely with the stylus and some minor tweaking of the circle pad. Dragging your stylus from top to bottom rolls Dillon into a ball, and releasing sends him spinning forward. Your primary, most rudimentary attack will be to simply spin into enemies. A surprisingly fun combo system builds off of this basic spin attack to ensure you deal damage as quickly and efficiently as possible. You’ll need to be efficient too, because while you’re fighting one grock, the horde is still marching towards town.
This is actually the bit that I enjoyed. You’re constantly racing against time and impending doom. If you miss your combo and take a few extra seconds to kill a grock, you might lose some scrogs. The tension can run high.
In Rolling Western’s 10 stages, I managed to die for the first time in the 3rd. Again, it’s not an issue of unfair difficulty, but of efficiency. I definitely appreciate that. What I’m not so keen on, however, is the repetition. They through in various enemy types and give Dillon new abilities, but these things do little to dispel the repetition induced “ugh” that I experienced on multiple occasions. Often it’s from quest givers who have the exact same problem, but ask you for a different solution:
My son is sick, get me this.
In the next town:
My son is sick with the same thing, but get me this other thing instead
Sometimes it’s an affluent toad of a woman who wants gems, sometimes the same gem, sometimes not, but it doesn’t really matter. It seems the only difference from one town to the next is the layout of the landscape and the Mayor — the Mayors have the potential to make you laugh more often than I’d anticipated; they’re all hilariously stereotypical characters.
The combat is extremely fun, but when coupled with the focus on Dillon and his goofy flying sidekick I’m reminded of Banjo Kazooie, I pine for the N64 era, and Dillon’s outing is spoiled. I enjoy Rolling Western for the most part as is, but a Banjo-style platformer with Dillon could be infinitely better. One could argue that putting Dillon in the confines of the tower defense framework is squandering his potential.
That’s not to say that Rolling Western isn’t fun, it definitely is. The high-pressure situations and combat are great, but Dillon and his style were made for a more open game. He doesn’t quite fit with the tower defense structure. The repetition can be grating, but the highs can definitely out balance the lows when the action starts.