862306_largerWith The Wizard of Oz 75th Anniversary and spinoff upon us, it’s no wonder that developers have been capitalizing on the brand to create new iOS games. OzDefence is Dorothy’s latest over-the-rainbow adventure. It’s got one of the best art styles of all the Oz games. Fanciful toy soldiers, vibrant monsters with bumpers, health restoring bunny rabbits, blade twirling horses and other sinisterly sweet creatures are lurking in every board. If it weren’t for the dreaded pay wall and the lack of level diversity, this would have been one Oz adventure to be remembered.

The word adventure may be a stretch when used in reference to this game, but the app’s icon does have that additional label. OzDefence is more of a survival game with RPG elements. Dorothy happily skips from left to right, like Little Red Riding Hood toting a picnic basic. After about ten to fifteen seconds of skipping, you reach the end of the board. There you will find a giant portal, adorned with storybooks, which spews several creatures that want to knock Dorothy on her back.

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Dorothy has two power meters, a SUM meter and a MP meter. The SUM meter is used to summon creatures to fight on her side, while the MP meter is for Dorothy’s own attacks. Right away, I’m digging that style. Summoning creatures and using magic attacks takes me right back to Final Fantasy. It’s pretty cool. She’s even got her own version of a Limit Break. If you’re like me, you may have always wondered what other powers Dorothy’s ruby slippers give her, besides the ability to take her back to Kansas and produce a few sparks when threatened by green-faced witches. Now, you have it. Dorothy is a mage.

Dorothy’s powers are different from your standard mage or necromancer. This Kansas-gal uses a smorgasbord of wild attacks, many of which are food inspired. She hurls carrots and potatoes as her shooter weapons. Compared to the potatoes, the carrots are like armor piercing bullets. When Dorothy wants to get up close and personal, she whips out a frying pan or swings a giant shark like a baseball bat, unleashing a wave attack with each fishy swing.

At the start of most boards, both Dorothy’s SUM and MP are set at zero. So gamers will have to use the ten seconds of free time let their power meters build up. For about the first seven boards, there’s no problem. You have ample time to call out multiple toy soldiers for close up attacks and thin gunners to fire from a few feet back. Players can toss a potato, here and there, while their SUM meter builds for more powerful creatures. Sprinkled throughout each world are a few stages that don’t require you to use your SUM or MP. Instead, you pick up creature and skill cards that pop up out of the ground and use them to attack.

Although most of the stages within the three worlds are carbon copies, the enemy combinations are always diverse. They attack using a variety of melee and spell attacks. Every time you see a new monster attack, you’ll be anxious to get that monster on your team. Players collect additional monsters or eggs that can all be upgraded or evolved to unlock new monsters. The evolution process allows them to absorb other summoned creature cards and receive attribute modifiers.

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Just when you think you’re doing well, an emergency alert will sound off and the wave of attacking creatures will triple. During the first few boards that’s no problem. But by stage seven, you will find yourself out-numbered and over-powered.

The game deceives you into thinking that you can easily upgrade your summoned monsters and attacks to match the steep difficulty. Every time Dorothy levels up, she gets an additional skill point. Unfortunately, you can’t really use those skill points to unlock new attacks and hope to survive. More powerful attacks require more MP. Since your meter starts at zero at the beginning of every board, you’ll have to wait forever to use any of your heavy duty skills and summons. This forces you to upgrade your Passive abilities first. Instead of checking out those cool new powers, like dropping a saucepan from the sky, you’ll spend skill points to speed up the rate at which your SUM and MP recover.

As for your summons, upgrades are only available up to half of Dorothy’s level. By stage ten, you will need to constantly replay the first nine boards in order level up, collect more monster cards and to get more money to pay for upgrades. The game that was so playful and fun for the first hour or two, steadily plunges you into level grinding hell – and not the good JRPG grinding either.

You can get more gold by playing through the earlier levels on the Hard difficulty setting. On these levels, Dorothy’s hair is zapped into an afro and she ends up with an angry scowl on her face throughout the board. Take that as you will.

Each stage only takes about ten minutes to beat, but you’ll spend hours grinding through past boards just to level up. And, that’s just to get you through the first world. Of course, this painful process can be bypassed through hefty IAPs. Paying $.99 through $4.99 doesn’t offer you enough emeralds to make the purchase worth it. So really, you’ll need to spend $9.99 for a decent upgrade. With that, you can boost all of Dorothy’s passive abilities and unlock her cool attacks, without spending an extra ten hours playing through a handful of boards you already beat. Of course, this will get your to the second world, but you’ll be back to grinding or paying if you want to tarry on.

OzDefence could have been a joyous romp through the land of Oz. But the leveling system and difficulty needs to be rebalanced and overhauled to better suit the game and its 100-plus levels. Gamers shouldn’t hit a pay wall less than 10 percent through a survival game. As much as I love the monsters of Oz and Dorothy’s magical powers, $9.99 is just too steep for this survival-defense game. Don't forget to see what our community has been saying about this game on our forums.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • JJE McManus

    Give me flying monkeys or give me death - Patrick Henry.
    Also IAP. So, pass.
    OFAP

  • Jake7905

    Yet another 'Army of Darkness Defense' knockoff, and yet another freemium ripoff.

    • toxiccheese

      Army of Darkness was also a knock off of something else.

      • Jake7905

        Just curious, what?

  • lepke

    Yeah, pass...

  • kalico

    I know $10 seems like a lot to people who are used to free iOS games, but for hours of fun, you essentially have to pay the price of a movie ticket to keep going. And you give the game a bad review because of this? It's no wonder app developers never make money.

    • workingman

      The thing is you can't continue if you don't pay that $10. Every other free game lets you grind to earn enough to advance but there is no chance of that in this. Technically this is not a free game it is a demo that lets you play a few levels. The difficulty ramps up so fast I can see why no one would be willing to drop $ into it. There are many other games on the App Store that are very similar and don't require more $ to advance

      • Adams Immersive

        I agree--although $10 isn't much for hours of fun (assuming this is your cup of tea), what I'd demand is clarity: if it's a $10 game with a free demo, that's fine--but make that known clearly from the app description, and make the amount be a fixed-price unlock rather than figuring out how many consumables you should buy. If the IAP is going to be consumable like this, it should be practical to get by without: "free to play."

      • workingman

        I had 4 1/2 hours logged in and approximately 3 1/2 of those were spent on one stage and I never came any closer to beating it. That's when I deleted. Anyone would be a fool to drop $ into a game like that

OzDefence Reviewed by Bags Hooper on . Rating: 3