Character can be a dangerous thing. All the narrative, charm, or wit in the world can be churned into mush if the foundation it sits on is unsound. Games that are able to inject doses of character into their tried-and-true fundamentals are special. They're hard to put down, even harder to forget, and inarguably solid.
Corpse Craft [Free] manages to be this type of game. It's no-nonsense approach and mixture of two different genres works spectacularly well, while its clever veneer adds a delectable flavor to the play.
But let's start at the beginning, shall we? Corpse Craft is a castle vs castle title with a matching twist. The UI itself has a built-in matching-game puzzle board. Each color within this board represents a different kind of material that you can use to build your soldiers, which are represented in the game just above the UI. The more dramatic the match, the more materials you'll receive as a result.
Materials aren't figurative and the soldiers are people… sort of. The game draws its name its peculiar choice of castle vs castle troops: cobbled together, reanimated flesh. In a way, this is castle battle "Frankenstein" minus all that stupid "What is it to be human?" crap. Also, there's no stalking.
Once material is gathered, you can build a butcher knife-equipped attacker or even a mix-and-match consisting of a female's head held up by multiple hands. Later, you'll be able to build a disgusting rolling sphere of interconnected parts or defensive creatures with multiple arms.
What's important to get here is that each soldier has its own specialization, as well as a flaw. And while these guys are all separate, they do share one thing in common: a quirky, yet dark and original character.
The weird, but whimsical aesthetic is present throughout the title, soaking the atmosphere in its quirk. You'll notice that Corpse Craft has a delightful pen-and-ink approach reminiscent of Graham Annable's "Grickle." It's an approach that keeps the gruesome in the forefront, but doesn't dish out copious gore. The narrative follows the art's lead, presenting the macabre substance via grim singsong poems.
Since we're dealing with monsters here, it's only natural that there's a day and night mechanic. At night, your abominations can attack and defend at will. But during the day, the entire board is wiped clean of the reanimated, leaving you to gather resources until the next night falls.
Depending on how good you are, you may only see more than a dozen nights, as there appears to be around 16 levels in the game. I wish I could confirm this, but there's a sharp difficulty spike just beyond this "free" title's pay wall. (Yes, Corpse Craft is one of those "Buy the full game" games.) The AI in these later stages turns into corpse grinders, able to blast out many more soldiers than you can within short spurts. A good deal of strategy is required and, unfortunately, luck. I'll note though that nothing seems impossible to beat.
In addition to a campaign, there's a Survival Mode and an online component, which presents 1 vs. 1 or 2 vs. 2 play via Game Center. The online sounds cooler in theory than what it actually is. The simplicity of the matching component lends itself to spamming blocks for massive amounts of soldiers, which turns out not to be so grand when you, and not the AI, is on the receiving end of the punishment. Again, this is where luck rears its head. If you get a bad board, you'll probably lose since there's not much complexity to Corpse Craft.
Regardless, it's hard not to love Corpse Craft for solely for its slick character, so it's really nice that it sits on such a solid foundation. I've enjoyed my time with the game immensely and I expect many others will as well. Go ahead and give the game a download -- you'll easily get a good enough indication of how much you'll dig the game before you hit its pay wall.