Trenched Hands-On Preview


One man uses his genius to protect, the other to destroy — it’s the old trope of heroic struggle from any age, place, or reality. Double Fine has adapted the classic battle for their latest project, a downloadable title called Trenched, where players will ban together in post-WWI-era America to fight off the ravaging hordes of television monsters that seek to use their technological tendrils to destroy democracy. If it sounds like an ironic commentary on media saturation in modern society, well, it might be, but Trenched feels more palatable as a customizable, tower-defense shoot-em-up, which it does with every bit of that patented Schafer charm that’s made Double Fine a bastion for light-hearted fun in an industry loaded down with over-serious tones.

The bizarre premise of Trenched comes from the rivalry of two men who seek to re-appropriate the technological advancements (mechanized vehicles and televisions as the prime examples) for their own ends. The one with the giant, dastardly moustache becomes the evil scientist bent on world domination (go figure) and the other uses all he knows about trench warfare to build weaponized mechs — that’s right, the trenches go on top of them. Groups of the mechs are then pitted against the TV-robot army to protect locations and save the countryside from the reign of terror. The premise feels appropriately ridiculous.

Play, however, feels more mainstream. Taking the role of mech drivers, players will use their customizable war machines to shoot rockets, bullets, shells, and all other manner of artillery to fend off waves of their luminescent foes. The mechs will also benefit from a range of abilities like sprinting and digging in for super-powered shots, all of which come from the different pieces of equipment loaded onto the mechs a la Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, though with slightly less variety. The controls for the mechs are fluid and responsive and experience collection (in the form of little TVs) is as simple as holding the right bumper.


Tower defense, which may seem a strange addition to this firefight, actually flows just as easily as the rest of the gameplay. The left shoulder button initiates a radial tower menu offering anti-air, long-distance, and medium-range turrets (among others) that cost experience to build and upgrade. There’s some definite strategy to tower placement, but most of the strategy will likely focus around which players build the towers, as certain mechs have bonuses that allow them to build more towers for less. Teamwork, it seems, will be a big component, especially with the option for four-player online squads that can take on the evil horde together.

If Trenched seems a little outside Double Fine’s recent schema of decidedly comedic, cheery titles, that’s because, to some extent, it is. The dialogue, characters, and story seem to share the character of Costume Quest and Stacking, but the game design returns to the roots of old-school shooters — brightly lit enemies against a dreary background that arrive in giant swathes and explode into pieces, making way for the next wave and eventually ushering in large mini-bosses or bosses. It’s kind of a remix on the R-Type days and current third-person shooters, which combine surprisingly well.

Pilot an all new kind of trench on Xbox LIVE Arcade sometime later this year.


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Author: Dan Crabtree View all posts by
Dan is Managing Editor for GamerNode and a freelance gaming writer. His dog is pretty great. Check him out on Twitter @DanRCrabtree.

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