Wildlings is a great set of training wheels for defense gameplay

Talk to any ‘anti-gamer’ – the name I like to apply to folk who think half an hour on Grand Theft Auto will result in you ransacking your local store, or running over people on the sidewalk at will – and their concern is always that a dabble with Angry Birds here, a splash on Doodle Jump there, will lead to far harder exploits down the line. Suddenly, simple physics based puzzles won’t be enough, and you’ll be chucking in your job and blocking out that significant other just to dip into World of Warcraft for another day or two. Usually, I dismiss such talk as pure hokum, but there’s a distinct feeling with Wildlings that they might have a point.

That’s namely because Wildlings appears ridiculously simple on the surface. Within minutes of starting it up, your brain will be telling you to put it down at the first possible moment – it should be utterly boring, yet for some reason, it never is.

To figure out its attraction, first it’s important to try and define it. If forced to drop Wildlings into a box, its gameplay is likely best described as tower defense – albeit a particularly basic approach on the genre. Taking charge of one of more large birds – or Wildlings, if you will – you’re tasked with defending a nest of three chicks from a series of attacks by strange and vicious creatures. Said foes head towards you in waves, and all you need do to fend them off is tap on your beast of choice.

Once highlighted, the nearest Wildling will then attack on your behalf. Every victim you fell also releases and orb you can use to fuel your own special attacks – early options including a whirlwind that freezes their advance for short periods, to pelting them with a shower of massive cherries.

Wildlings‘ appeal, however, isn’t focused on mastering the game’s controls, which are as straightforward as they come. Indeed, should you fail to highlight any enemy at all, the game will automatically lock your defenses on to the nearest beastie in range and attack them for you.

Instead, Wildlings is a game focused on decision making. Choosing just which enemies to attack and when is what separates a successful run from one where your chicks are ripped to shreds. Some foes, for instance, are slow and bulky, and require several hits before they drop. Others are fast little blighters that’ll be scurrying towards your nest within seconds, yet only require the slightest of touches to be flattened.

Wildlings

Wildlings

Knowing which target to attack first is, therefore, Wildlings‘ signature, though even then, the addition of the game’s aforementioned bonus moves means failure isn’t a likely resolution until fairly late into the game. The end result is a title where you don’t necessarily feel like you’ve achieved anything if you manage to pass a level with flying colours, yet by the same token, closing it down is never really an option.

Which leads me to one conclusion: Wildlings is the perfect trainer for the scores of other, tougher defense titles already on the App Store, giving you a hunger for the genre without overloading you with it.

As such, whether it’s the game for you depends on how much experience you already have in the field. For defense veterans, Wildlings is likely to disappoint and deflate in equal measure. For newcomers, however, Metamoki’s bird battler is an alluring first step towards far weightier wars ahead.