Dictator Defense: The Most Addictive Defense Game since Fieldrunners - Macenstein

Dictator Defense: The Most Addictive Defense Game since Fieldrunners

Dictator Defense

As a reviewer, one of the best indications that you should write about a game is that you do not want to stop playing the game long enough to write about it. Dictator Defense ($2.99 iTunes) by Digital Chocolate is just such a game for me, and it basically ate my entire weekend.

Dictator Defense
Meet the dictators

Digital Chocolate is one of my favorite, if not consistent, iPhone game developers. When they hit it, they knock it out of the park, and when they miss, they really blow it. But they definitely hit a big one with Dictator Defense. At its heart it’s a castle defense game, with just a hint of tower defense thrown in. The idea is that over the course of 40 levels (spread over 4 different dictators) you must defend your wall from being overrun by the various enemy forces. As the game progresses you unlock the ability to use different weapons as well as upgrade the ones you already have.

Dictator Defense

For the most part, enemies descend in a straight line from the top, with two exceptions: spies, and Bosses. Tower placement becomes critical as the levels increase in difficulty, as does properly managing your cash flow. To help you speed up your purchases, you are (on most rounds) able to build banks in addition to artillery which will periodically give you extra cash to make your tower purchases.

Dictator Defense

The game begins with the easiest Dictator, which sports a not-so-subtle resemblance to George Bush (in fact he’s actually called “Big George”) although THIS George shoots lasers out of his eyes. The early levels act as a tutorial of sorts but by around level 5 or so you are actually playing the game. This is great the first time around, but becomes a bit of an annoyance on subsequent re-plays (see ISSUES below). Upon defeating Big George you’ll meet up with an Arnold Schwarzenegger lookalike, Fidel Castro, and what appears to be Daryl Hannah’s one-eyed Kill Bill character. In order to help even the odds, on YOUR side you have a Rambo-clone you can call upon when you are hopelessly outgunned. The character design, sound effects, music and art are all well thought out and charming, although at first I wished for an extra 2-4 sprite frames for the characters, I eventually grew to love like the somewhat choppy animations.

Dictator Defense


Since I am thoroughly addicted to Dictator Defense, I feel I have a right to call it out on its biggest flaw. As I mentioned earlier, the game begins with the “Big George” level which acts as a tutorial for the game. The problem is, once you have beaten the game, if you want to replay a certain level, you need to restart FROM THE BEGINNING, easy levels and all. So for example, suppose you defeat the game on EASY, start playing the MEDIUM levels, then decide to try re-playing your favorite level 30 on EASY again. You need to start again at level 1 on EASY (not to mention you give up your current progress on MEDIUM). I would like to call out my recent puzzle game of choice Totemo as a good example of how the game SHOULD act. Totemo has 60 or so levels, but once you pass one, it is “unlocked”, and you could come back and replay it at any time. This requirement to have to always replay the easy levels in order to get to a level you have previously reached is unfortunately carried through for each of the three difficulty settings, which really sort of hampers replayability.

Dictator Defense

One final thought on replayability – which is the only area Dictator Defense is lacking – the game needs an actual SCORE. The goal of each level is to defend your wall and defeat the enemy, but there is no actual score to achieve, either from enemies killed, shortest time to defeat the board, an intact wall bonus, etc.. Throw in a global leaderboard (with me at the top) and this would easily be a 9.5 game. As is, I will have to take off a point or so for what I perceive as a hit to the game’s lasting value.

Dictator Defense


I beat Dictator Defense on all three difficulties this weekend, but that by no means means it is a short game. If anything it is a testament to the fact that I more or less played the game constantly during every free (and some NOT so free) minute I had. With a few tweaks to enhance replayability, Dictator Defense would be a nearly perfect castle/tower defense game, but even as is, it ranks as one of the best games of its kind for 2009.

3 Responses to “Dictator Defense: The Most Addictive Defense Game since Fieldrunners”
  1. Jon Conley says:

    I think the problem with giving access to individual levels is that you wouldn’t have any funds when you began or actual equipment. In most of the castle games (I haven’t played this one yet), you build your inventory over the course of each level slowly.

  2. Sergiales says:

    I’m stuck at the third level (Fidel) in the “Without banks I”.

  3. Pat says:

    Where to begin? I love tower games but this one was *terrible*. To be sure it didn’t grow on me I played to the end through various levels. I hate it even more, now. The graphics are okay, and the concept isn’t bad, but the rest of the game stinks on ice. I’ll begin my tirade with:

    Concept! Dictators sending armies to attack you. Great concept. However, the game only has one dictator “boss” – Castro. The others are presidents and movie heroes. Even if you go all lefty political and call Bush a dictator (eye roll), you can’t account for Schwarzenegger in any of his roles or call the Kill Bill character a dictator. Am I nit-picking? Not really. Also, there is no correlation between the dictators, the levels and which towers are active. Might as well have been random. Poor implementation of what could have been a good idea is a theme with this review. Everything missed the boat. What else?

    Gameplay! I played the blackberry version, but if they failed to consider how the game should work on this device, why should you assume they figured things out for yours? You shouldn’t. In my case, they use the trackball for rolling / selection and for clicking. That’s not a bad control if you’re editing text, but in a game with time pressure you need to think about how this works. The game authors did not. To build a unit you have to roll to the location, click, roll to the unit, and click. This can be done but the blackberry isn’t built to do this at breakneck speed. Roller ball is tiny and so selection of cells is very “twitchy”. So what happens? Placement of units in a different location than intended or placement of the wrong units! How could they fix this? Use spacebar or some other key to do the entry and the roller ball to do the selection. Pressing on a roller ball to select ensures it will occasionally “twitch” to the wrong selection as you click. Everyone knows this, why not the folks at Digital Chocolate? But that’s not the only problem. What else?

    Balance in leveling!

    Regardless of level of gameplay each phase falls into one of two categories – it’s either mindlessly easy (type 1) or you’re counting on luck (type 2). For every “hard” / luck round, you will have five mindlessly easy rounds. What do I mean by mindlessly easy? I played one round blindfolded and won. What do I mean by luck? I played one round three times the exact same way and was victorious once. Playing it differently, and you lose. Hope you like memorization games, because that’s the only skill you need for this.

    Game Depth
    Selling units has no point. Their value on resale is so very low (less than 10% of purchase cost), I’m not sure why they bothered giving you credit at all. You only sell units because the controller was twitchy and you placed the wrong one.

    The “hero” has no real value in the games. They tried to make this a significant point of the game with special animations and such, but you can just as easily ignore it. If you can’t win the round without him, he’s not going to be much help – even fully upgraded. There were a few times where I was teetering on the brink and he made the difference, but I mean a few times… like three. Otherwise, the hero is useless.

    It doesn’t matter which boss you are playing, gameplay is unaffected. This is just a trick to make you feel like there are 40 levels or whatever, but there are really only three levels: Waves where they come slow, waves where they come fast, and waves where you can’t place banks. That’s it. You can call the “boss” level a fourth wave, but again, if you were successful at building your army up, you can pretty much leave the pieces on the board, let the boss stomp around, and you’ll win just by watching.

    As you successfully complete levels you get to upgrade your units. …and who cares? This part of gameplay could have been a lot better. Instead of five upgrades, make it three and make each upgrade *count*. Instead, each unit has many upgrades and you’ll be hard-pressed to tell the difference between some of them. They just don’t get much better between upgrades. Some units actually seem to get worse against their mis-matched counterparts. For example, there’s a bad dude with a sledgehammer that will take out your rifleman after a number of whacks because that’s the wrong defense. Got it. But if you have a few rifleman in a line or a flame-thrower, it takes long enough that the sledge guy is taken down, too. But now why does an upgraded rifleman die *faster* and allow mister sledge to take out multiple units?


    Pong had better music. Turn it on only if you need to announce to the people around you that you’re playing a game. Beyond that it has no value. Imagine listening to 30 seconds of a fight game title screen on auto-replay. There’s your music… enjoy!

    Replay Value?

    None. No points to be had, no new things to try out, and in many cases no alternative ways to clear the level. Clearing a level is like clipping your nails. Not fun not satisfying and once it’s done it’s done. You can get OCD over it, but once you clear a level there’s no reason to go back unless your life is so dull you can’t think of a better way to spend your time. Dictator Defense on the blackberry was $7, and that was 700 pennies too much.

    Like I said, I LOVE tower defense games, but this was a steaming turd on my phone. I actually felt like the authors hate me, personally. Well now it’s mutual. Not only will I be purging the game from memory, I’m never going to buy another Digital Chocolate game again… ever.

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