Gotta Protectors: The Dark Wagon begins because it means to continue – with a heartwarming parody of something players of a certain age will only likely remember. The Ancient’s logo appears and then… nothing happens – it’s not until you hit the “A” button on the side of the screen as if your Switch is a moody CRT TV that’s seen better days. This sequence is left absolutely unexplained. You are expected to simply be the type who immediately understands the reference.
The same can be said for many other 4th wall-breaking gestures of RF switches, age ratings, and hundreds of stat-boosting gigs with IP evasive names like Illinois James: Temple of Melancholy. Much of that love for a bygone era comes naturally from the wealthy themselves, a developer with a heritage that stretches all the way to 8-bit hardware. But the credit must also be given to translators over the age of 8-4, too: the text always looks lively, the jokes regularly hit their mark, and there are some excellent lines that include the threat of crushing on someone flatter than two-dimensional or “Roll faster than a hedgehog in tackling the blast!” Along the way.
So obviously Gotta Protectors loves ’80s games, ’80s games, and the culture that surrounds them. But the gorgeous pixel art — much of it that will already be familiar to fans of the previous Gotta Protectors on the 3DS — is great tones, and a fondness for a while when Vanilla Ice debuted in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles The movie can only get a game so far.
Fortunately for everyone, then, the game itself is an absolute riot, often bypassing the standard tower defense zone and ending up in a place that can only be described as Strategic chaosYou and up to three friends can approach the game’s fun and expansive campaign mode in a casual drop/exit fashion, and to ensure that single players are never left at a disadvantage, each of the four phase missions begins with the main mission. The player selects a team of three from Eight different classes to battle, characters that can be switched at will and also customized with expensive new ability sets from the City Shop.How to balance your team is entirely up to you: Want to tackle missions with a set of barrier-creating blocks? You can. Would you rather focus on Mow enemies quickly and leave the game’s defensive stuff? It’s your choice. Prefer reasonable balance? Use it. All abilities are powerful enough for any approach to action, leaving you free to pursue Princess Lola’s protection that suits you best.
This time around, everyone’s favorite royal got a castle on a tank tread, and there’s nothing you want to do more than hit it at the enemy castle waiting at the other end of a long path. It’s a brilliantly ridiculous setup, and one buggy from Darkness is happy to make every last drop of tactical (and gag) gameplay. Some stages look more like puzzles than battlefields with path switches, portal doors, one-way arrows, color coded keys and more, though opening tutorial tasks and pre-stage banter for actors whenever something new or particularly challenging appears. It helps you understand the basics and then follow through as the levels become more complex. You soon find yourself fortifying barriers and switching between characters without any problem, if only because the game did a great job of easing you up.
Each mission is divided into four bite-sized stages, and after each one you have the opportunity to use the gold you’ve earned hitting minotaurs and ghosts to upgrade your entire team in several key areas. Of course, the more money you have, the stronger and stronger your defenses will be. The smart twist is that these upgrades only apply to this series of missions: each new challenge is a fresh start, meaning that no matter what you choose to spend your money on, you don’t have to worry about being left behind because you invested so much money in the “wrong” thing, ten before missions.
The soundtrack in the base game is serviceable, but we felt like we were constantly waiting for Yuzi Koshiro’s trademark charm to start playing rather than tapping on it. Real gamers may be waiting for the game’s four $3 DLC bundles, which feature music in a variety of audio chip formats as recorded on original devices, including ‘Mega Blastin’ Trax’, ‘Pocket Power Trax’ and ‘Japanicom Trax’ and “Super Wavetable” versions. The DLC also features additional scenarios and character skills not found in the base game we reviewed.
Gotta’s Guardians: Chariot of Darkness is always enjoying throwing something new at you, a few small tweaks to the usual rules that somehow make another stage involving a cheery princess and a moving castle tank feel brand new. Mobile monster generators and multiple castles keep you on your toes, and it seems that colossal bosses that can fill an already occupied screen always appear at the worst possible moment and demand your full attention.
The good news is that by the time these bosses are introduced, you will have learned to transcend the hit and hope tactics of your earlier hours and have begun to dig into the game’s important strategic depths; For example, noting that while smashing the castle and repairing barricades, the archer’s arrows are actually a long-range repair service. It’s sometimes useful to take the princess out of the castle to give you time to rearrange barricades or collect keys before turning on the next monster point, and since the tag out system always brings the alternate character next to Lola, it can be used as a cheeky warp if searching for that last key has left you too far away from Her Highness the Good. There seem to be a million new ways to use your old skills, and Cart of Darkness is eager to help you see them all.
The blending of all-out action, deep strategy, and irreverent humor of the Ancient is as fun as ever here, and smashing a massive castle tank into sinister stuff never stops being fun. Gotta Protectors: Cart of Darkness plays its story for laughs but the game itself is an expertly designed challenge with loads of missions to do and plenty to keep coming back for.