Get in your hole!

If there’s a chance you haven’t sated your patriotic thirst for WWI by deploying wave after wave of variably armed minions, Trenches is here to drench your iPhone with the blood of your enemies. Dig yourselves a foxhole, boys, we’re gonna shoot us some Jerrys.

Trenches is a strategy game with the cartoony trappings of, of all things, the first World War. Armed with a coffer and up to six different units you try to move your forces across the battlefield to the enemy’s spawn point. Traversing barbed wire and seeking the strategic cover of trenches, you will have to keep your wits about you to survive the Campaign mode on Hard.

The gameplay and controls are a bit of a marriage between castle defense and line drawing. Units are selected by tapping their block, then you control them by dragging their path moving the left or right and up and down across the battlefield. While I recommend use of the auto-advance option for new units, it’s advantageous in a more challenging battle to amass waves of units and have them hold their position for a time. Scrolling left to right across the battlefield via the sky can be frustrating, at times skipping too rapidly to one end and occasionally even freezing up and then rocketing you in one direction, too late and away from the fray.

Most of the game is set in France, though other than the names of battle you wouldn’t really know it – the background is unique for each setting, but there is no crepe delivery on the battlefield. When in France, do as the British as and battle the Germans. The six units at your disposal are infantry, sniper, machine gun, mortar, bomb and poison gas bomb. All but the last two involve at least one figure to move across the war zone, while the pricey bomb and poison gas are deployed from the air and then dissipate. Money accumulates over time, though even if you have enough cash you cannot immediately deploy one unit after another but must instead wait for them to recharge.

Campaign Mode is comprised of six successive battles with each victory unlocking one of the available units. Experienced strategists will want to crank the dial up to Hard, while Easy is a breezy introduction to the gameplay. In addition to the Campaign there is Skirmish, a more focused effort that allows you to choose one map, the size of the battlefield and the difficulty. Unlike Campaign which features Easy, Medium and Hard difficulties Skirmish includes options like “Adaptive”. Incredibly variable, you can also tweak trenches and even (after completing Campaign) play against a zombie horde.

OpenFeint allows for leader boards locally, globally and among your friends as well as one of my favorite features in these modern times: achievements – and Trenches has oodles of them. I know the pride-driven nonentities aren’t compelling for everyone, but for me having all those additional goals really extends playtime. That said, with the achievements for a relative simple game numbering in the double digits, some of them are a little tedious (killing 500 enemies in one battle is just an exercise in boredom).

The production is great with slick menus and detailed art. Each unit is distinct, easily identifiable with the upgraded units exhibiting their own personality, and the unlockable zombies are a treat. Nothing, however, is quite as gratifying as dropping a bomb on a mess of enemy units and watching the bits go in every direction. The soundtrack is solid with some fun effects for the combat. Voice acting is minimal, but with this type of gameplay I prefer the minimalism to redundancy.

Trenches doesn’t make an emotional play for your historical heartstrings. Instead of using the brutal realities of war for emotive gain it’s a backdrop for cartoonish brutality, and I like that. However, creative strategy isn’t rewarded and Trenches quickly becomes a war of attrition. Still, at $1.99, the price is right for some bloodshed.

Review copy provided by publisher.