Developer: Thunder Game Works
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Game Controls Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

In case you are wondering, Stenches is Trenches with zombies instead of Germans. Having not played Trenches a ton, my time with Stenches was much like hanging out with a long lost girlfriend that moved away far too soon: it’s fun for a time, but then you realize why you weren’t so upset when she originally left.

Stenches lives in the side scrolling castle defense/attack genre that is populated by such titles as Trenches and Epic War 3. The basic concept is to build a bunch of units to fortify/advance your lines while fending off the waves of zombies that are approaching from the right. As you kill zombies, you get gold that you can spend on new troops or ballistic weapons that can strike the zombies from long range. The goal, much like a WW1 battle, is to advance your army to nearby trenches that not only provide shelter, but can be upgraded to become a troop spawn point.

Sales of the game, and its mass popularity, surely come from the polished exterior and likable characters. There are no NPC’s to speak of, but the troop units all have a likability that isn’t matched in the genre. The battlefield, zombies, heck, even the battle sounds in the game are all extremely well made… often sucking you back in after you are determined to stop playing.

Once you get past the polish though, the game quickly shows off its true colors. There are a few issues that I have with the basic game play, and most of the issues come down to frustrating troop movement. First off, the movement in Stenches is all done by line drawing, just draw a little line to tell a unit where you want it to go. This is a great implementation of the touch screen, but when you have 5 units standing in the same spot, what do you do? This problem comes to light primarily when you are advancing your lines to a new trench. To add difficulty, Stenches puts a troop limit in the trenches, and the only way to raise this limit is to upgrade the trench with an engineer. Singling out the engineer for movement is a pain in the rear, and protecting him is even worse. It would make sense to protect your hard-at-work engineer with a few machine gun units, but in the heat of battle when you are moving the units to the trenches their horrible AI will overshoot the trench and blow their cover. Needless to say, there badly needs to be an “advance to next bunker button,” in addition to the regular advance gesture.

My other squabbles come down to the maddening lack of hand to hand combat strength and the unfortunate low max troop count, but the movement issues are by far the most frustrating. Do these issues mean that Stenches is a bad game? No, but it’s hard not to think that the game could be much much better with a few of the kinks worked out. As is, it is a worthy buy if you love the genre or are a fan of Trenches… just be ready for some frustration.

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