Defend Your Castle is one of the original -and best-remembered- castle defense games on the web. While it was certainly a ton of fun to take out the invading forces, story was never the game’s strong suit and we never did learn why the rampaging stick figures were so angry at us in the first place. Pillage the Village, accordingly, serves as a prequel to the seminal web game: according to the plot, the disembodied god hand from Defend Your Castle started ticking off everyone in the land by randomly destroying villages and killing their inhabitants.
Pillage the Village is a game that plays like a kind of reverse castle defense title. Instead of trying to keep people out of your base, players need to keep peasants from escaping their villages. Initially this is pretty simple: you (as the hand) pick up a house, throw it aside, and then toss any into the air. After a few throws, the villagers die leave behind gold coins that can be spent between levels to unlock/upgrade new spells and abilities.
These new spells and abilities allow gamers to dispatch with villagers in increasingly effective ways. Depending on your moral standpoint, you can unlock new upgrades that fall under different moral categories. “Pacifier” (good) abilities involve bending time and euthanizing villagers so they’ll die quickly, while “Antagonizer” (evil) abilities include dropping giant anvils and earning a”power gauntlet” for the hand (which come in the shape of a Nintendo Power Glove). There’s a morally-neutral path, too, which involves bolstering mana reserves and the like, since these upgrades can help either moral group’s abilities.
Of course, as the game progresses, villagers gain new abilities: some pack parachutes that save them when thrown around, others can turn invisible for periods of time, others can glide on wings, and different types of villagers have more health than others. To deal with this increasing level of difficulty, your new abilities will deliver one-hit kills or slow them down enough to make killing them more manageable.
The overall production levels of Pillage the Village are far more impressive than Defend Your Castle ever was. Graphics are cartoony and lovely, sound effects and music are great, and there’s an actual save system in place that can support up to three games at a time (unique in itself with Flash games). You can tell that a lot of effort went into this.
At the same time, there are a couple of shortfalls here. Some villagers seem impossible to kill without a spell/ability, the pointer doesn’t always grab a character when you click, and buildings are obnoxious because they get in the way until you throw them enough times to destroy them. But, overall, these are minor irritations in a web game that is actually quite excellent.
Pillage the Village is a competent web title that is both fast-paced and addictive. Not only is it stylish and fun, but the fact that you can come back and continue old games is a great feature. It’s not perfect, but its premise is pretty unique and it does things differently enough that its flaws are easy to forgive when compared with the greater game experience.