Army of Darkness Defense HD by Backflip Studios icon

Army of Darkness Defense HD (Free) by Backflip Studios brings all the ridiculousness, hand-sized chainsaws and one line zingers you’d expect of an Army of Darkness title.

As a castle defense title for the iPad, Army of Darkness HD offers enough depth to please hardcore fans of the genre, as well as enough movie references to please sci-fi nerds. It’s fun, fast-paced and for a limited time only it’s free in the App Store: Boom stick not included.

Army of Darkness Defense HD by Backflip Studios screenshot

At its heart, Army of Darkness Defense HD is a casual tower defense game with light RPG sprinklings.

You play as Ash (narrated by original actor Bruce Campbell), a hapless S-Mart sales clerk who travels back through time to medieval England. The castle you’ll be defending here is the Necronomicon, or Book of the Dead. As usual, your fort rests at the far left of the level while baddies emerge from the far right: It’s up to you to ensure the twain shall never meet.

The game gives you several ways to defend the Necronomicon. Ash himself is armed to the teeth, first with a simple boom stick and iron fist, then with a chainsaw. You’re also allowed to call upon an ever-growing list of backup.

As you play, your blacksmith produces iron, which can be used to create extra troops. Not only that, but the occasional hero will even waltz unannounced into the picture, usually when you really need one. Once a hero has been unlocked, he can then be called upon later as if he were any other unit.

Army of Darkness Defense HD by Backflip Studios screenshot

The sheer number of available units and upgrades is certainly Army of Darkness’ biggest boon: You’re constantly adding new troops to the roster, and thus constantly being rewarded for playing. The same goes for weapon and unit upgrades, which can be purchased using the gold found in-game.

Army of Darkness Defense HD’s largest strength is its pull to keep playing, to unlock just one more level or purchase just that last upgrade. This approach to tower defense certainly isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it can be quite addictive. But it’s definitely a spanner in the gears for several reasons.

The gameplay drags worse than molasses in January. The level is designed like one long hallway, meaning you can only move Ash left or right. Not only that, but you haven’t got much control over his actions, and with no control over the AI units whatsoever, there’s little for the player to do during a match except sit back and watch. Ash’s special attacks do recharge, and require you to tap them to blast them, you’ll also have to manage adding new units, but it just isn’t enough to keep the player involved.

This shouldn’t be confused with grinding, however: The game will never make you wait for gold, as its usually found in abundance. There’s simply too much emphasis on the incentive to keep playing, rather than the play itself.

This problem is compounded by the game’s lack of true depth. Though there are more upgrades and troops than you can shake a stick at, hardly any of them are necessary.

Very early in the game I upgraded one of the basic units to its maximum level, and then spammed that unit in combat to very great success. Likewise, leveling one of Ash’s powers to its limit produces an over-powered utility for zapping the balance right out of the game.

This lack of a need for strategy is frustrated even more by the AI’s tendency to simply push forward, rather than hanging back by the castle, allowing you to bank on defenses.

However, none of that is to say the game isn’t fun. Army of Darkness Defense HD is an absolute blast, just don’t expect to spend much time strategizing. The game’s addictive nature, including the copious Game Center achievements that beg to be unlocked, will keep any gamer going, and the cartoon-style graphics ensure it’s wrapped in a pleasant package.

The game is guaranteed to please fanboys and casual gamers alike, and since the app is free for a limited time only, there’s no better day to jump on the bandwagon.