App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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I absolutely love being surprised by a game. I'll see the screen shots, develop a sort of internal concept of what the game will be like, then play it and realize I was only half right. I'll realize that I only managed to predict the basic idea, and discover that the full experience is something much more interesting and, dare I say it, special.
Samurai Bloodshow (no way am I typing the rest of that title out again) adheres to the classic "lane-based" defense genre made popular by games involving shambling corpses and horticulture. The general (i.e. the thing that needs defending) sits on the left-hand side of the screen while enemy forces pour in from the right. The only way to keep them from their target is to place defensive units throughout the five rows that comprise the game field. But that's only the basic idea.
There are two aspects - aside from the delightfully silly (and bloody) Monty-Python-styled Japanese-scrolls-come-to-life visuals - that make Samurai Bloodshow feel both refreshingly new and super-addictive: units are drawn from a pre-constructed deck of cards, and they can be moved. Rather than choosing from a list, players are dealt cards from their deck and have to decide where to place them. Gold that accumulates over time can be spent to draw more cards but only so many are available in a given battle, so it's important to both think strategically and economically. For example; it might be instinctive to place a bunch of units at once, but by placing duplicate cards on top of each other they can be leveled-up (and fully healed).
This goes hand-in-hand with being able to shuffle units around the field, as I've found it's much more effective to have a handful of "elite" troops I can constantly reposition than to just toss out a bunch of fodder. Simply drag the planted flag for a given soldier to a new spot and they'll start to move, with certain units a bit more mobile than others, e.g., cavalry can't move backwards horizontally. This can become tricky as the levels progress and boulders appear on the map, blocking unit placement for a given tile, but it's all a part of the strategy.
I urge any strategy or defense fans reading this to seriously consider Samurai Bloodshow. The (in my opinion) over-priced card packs available through in-app purchases feel like a slap in the face, especially after already paying $5 for the game proper, but what can be bought can also be earned. And earning it, battle to battle, victory to victory, is what will keep me playing for a very long time.