Stenches: A Zombie Tale of Trenches Review

It’s almost like Halloween never ended on the App Store. Since the holiday passed, we’ve seen the release of Doodle Devil, Zombie Crisis 3D, Necronomicon, and now Stenches. But that’s cool, because horror never really goes out of style. If we can watch True Blood in July, why can’t we fight the undead in November?

Stenches is a zombie version of Trenches, a line-drawing-meets-tower-defense game from last year. So instead of commanding the British army in World War I, you lead them into oncoming waves of rotting corpses.

The zombies emerge from the right side of the long playing field, while your living men are summoned from the left. You have a number of different troop types to choose from, each with a different firing power, shot frequency, and cost. To start with, you only have enough money to buy a few soldiers, and to earn more you must kill zombies and tap the coins they leave behind.

The flaming hordes.

It’s a fun concept, and one we’ve seen many times before in tower defense games. But Stenches adds another layer. Once your troops start marching forward, you can draw paths for them, to tell them where to go and, more importantly, where to stop. The playing field has trenches dug into it, where your troops will be safer than on flat ground. But each trench can only hold so many soldiers, so as you summon more, you have to keep advancing the ones at the front of the line to make room.

However, it seems like your troops are always just a moment away from being wiped out. Random lightning bolts strike the ground and sap health from any nearby soldiers. The undead come in a variety of shapes and sizes: Some are fast, some are powerful, and some can strike from afar. One kind, when killed, emits a green cloud of toxic gas that can lay out several troops at once. Even on Easy difficulty, Stenches is tough.

A bloody collage.

A challenge is all well and good, but this game can feel downright cheap at times. First of all, it’s no fun when a lightning bolt wipes out an expensive troop when you’re not looking. And while you can control the movement of your troops, you can’t control which baddies they attack, and they don’t always focus on the ones you would like.

Also, there’s no tutorial at the start of the campaign mode. You have to go to the options screen and read the instructions there in order to have any idea about what you’re doing in the game. In an age of built-in tutorials, we found this bothersome.

On the other hand, you can unlock four levels in the campaign mode, each with 20 waves of undead to fight through. There’s also a Distance Mode that sends an unending stream of zombies at you, and your goal is to advance as far as possible before being devoured. Game Center keeps track of your scores.

So Stenches isn’t perfect, but it blends two genres together in an interesting way, and it looks and sounds great. The real question is, have you had your fill of Halloween yet?

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