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Two Heads are Better Than One - Totem Topple Review
Totem Topple is a vertical tower defense game centered around building a totem poll and protecting it from an endless stream of evil and rotating enemies. The entire game was built in less than 24 hours during the King game jam in January. Since the initial build of the game, it has been polished and was recently released on Wii U.
Platforms: Wii U [Reviewed], PC
Developer: Crystalline Green
Release: November 19, 2015
Press Copy provided by Crystalline Green
Like most entries in the genre, there isn't a whole lot of story details presented in Totem Topple. Instead, you're thrown right into the core gameplay and given the choice between two game modes: classic and frenzy. Classic mode is what you might expect from a traditional tower defense game. You're given a sum of money to start with the ability to buy heads for your totem pole that feature different abilities. As you defeat enemies with your totem heads, you'll earn more money to buy even more and better towers.
While this core gameplay strucure itself is solid, the implimentation is where it starts to fall apart. Rather than the totem heads themselves attacking, they instead power up beak add-ons that fire arrows at the enemies. Each head increases stats like health, rate of fire, and attack power for any beaks that are attached. However, the differences between the heads seemed so insignificant that you were better off just buying the cheapest head available. No matter how many health or attack upgrades I applied, my units and the enemies both seemed to take only 1 or 2 hits.
Another unfortunate mechanic is that beaks are always placed on the highest totem head up, although you often need them to protect your lower heads. Enemies will target your lowest heads, but sometimes the path they take will also take out upper units. This would all be fine, bar the fact that your arrows can only shoot straight forward, sometimes making it literally impossible to take out enemies before they get to you. This leads to the game feeling more like Russian Roullete with RNG than a strategic tower defense game.
Frenzy mode takes away the gathering of currency and purchasing of totem heads. Instead, you're to select from one of the randomly generated heads or beaks that appear on the screen every few seconds. The goal is still to build up a large tower, but you've got less work to do worrying about the stats or purchasing order of heads. Just like classic mode, frenzy mode feels broken. The best strategy I could find (it landed me a #3 spot on the world leaderboards) was to only build heads and disregard any defensive tactics. While I did find some entertainment in seeing how high of a score I could get this way, it vastly strays from the purpose and intent of the game.
To add to a slew of negativity, the visuals and sound in Totem Topple are less than stunning. While the premise of unique totem heads could have led to an interesting artistic style, the result is a small number of decently drawn heads that are hard to tell apart. The single piece of music written for the game is decent in itself, but gets annoying when it's repeating on a loop. One highlight of the game is the online leaderboard feature, which is well integrated and inspires a desire to compete against other players around the world or on your friend list. Unfortunately, the core game itself simply isn't good enough to be redeemed by a well developed leaderboard and Miiverse integration.
Totem Topple is actually somewhat impressive when you consider the timeframe it was developed in. It's understandable that a game built in less than 24 hours is going to have some noticeable flaws. However, there was a 10 month period of time before the game was released on Wii U that doesn't allow for this seemingly unfinished product. While it has a good foundation and isn't unreasonably priced, Totem Topple just isn't worth your time or money.
- Good leaderboard integration
- Decently priced @ $2.99
- Gameplay doesn't pan out as intended
- Success is awarded by luck rather than skill
- Limited game modes and features
- Boring music and graphics
These games simply aren't worth playing. They aren't fun to play and are seriously lacking in content. This category is usually reserved for cheap games that are blatant attempts at quick cash for the developer. Somtimes technical problems make these games unplayable. The only award these games will be winning is the Nintendo Castle certificate of participation.
Want to know what this score means? Check out our Scoring Guidelines page.