Siege

If an Englishman's home is his castle, double-glazing salemen are the undead hordes

It's bad enough being stuck indoors on a Saturday afternoon due to rain, so we'd rather not imagine how tiresome it is to be caught up in a real siege.

It's certainly hard to imagine it could be as entertaining as the siege depicted in THQ Wireless' new game. Putting a new spin on the move-crosshairs-and-fire genre, Siege finds you manning the ramparts of a castle as an archer.

The various nobles of a fragmenting fantasy kingdom have taken sanctuary in their massive stone fortifications, as civil war and dark forces roam the land. The demonic Lord Vesel is the hoodlum on the prowl 'round your neck of the woods, and it's up to you, with a little help from your friends, to repel the attack.

It's a pretty lonely position to be in, too, at least to start with. It's you against the entire monster horde (a smallish horde, granted, but a horde all the same), and all you've got is a bow and arrow.

Aiming by moving the pointer left and right along the bottom of the screen, you fire off your shots by pressing '5' or down on your handset's thumbpad. It's quick, intuitive and simple enough so that when events take a turn for the frantic, you're not left cursing the target for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The arrow then sails into the air before arcing down into your intended victim. Or, until you get used to the timing required, the ground just a few steps behind him. You see, the attackers you're shooting at - zombies, ghost archers, battering rams and the like - are marching confidently towards you, and so you'll need to aim at a point where they're going to be, not where they actually are as you release your bow.

Add to this the fact that it takes a couple of seconds to reload your bow and that some attackers take two arrows to go down, and you've got a shooting game that borders on being a puzzle.

But you do have a few tricks up your sleeve. As you withstand each day of the siege, you get money for the attackers you fell. This enables you to repair the damage that the attackers do to your castle; conversely, let the 'health' points of your castle run out and it's game over.

More importantly, with money you can buy swanky new weapons and troops. These range from the epic 'Raining Arrows', where the sky literally fills with sharp pointy sticks, to the dependable Knight, who'll sally forth from the castle gates to do combat with any attackers he meets onscreen. These special attacks are one-offs, so choosing when to use them is crucial; you'll soon find yourself with more attackers than you alone can see off and it's then that you'll be glad of some back-up.

This adds a lot of tension and you'll find that Siege engenders a great deal of determination in you during play. One nice visual touch among many is the rise and fall of the sun in the background as it marks the passage of each day; it's something you'll find yourself glancing at as the enemy forces start to fill your castle's front garden.

Balancing your expenditure between repairing damage, reinforcing your castle's walls and stocking up on special attacks adds another element to the sense of desperation that your besieged soldiers must be feeling.

It's this will you/won't you make it through the day edginess that is Siege's greatest weapon, and one that'll ensure that any wet weekend confinement that you might encounter in the future won't be so bad after all.

8 / 10

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