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Dillon's Rolling Western review

Once upon a time in the west for anthropomorphic tower defence

For a fistful of dollars (or more accurately, a debit card), you can mosey on down to the eShop for Vanpool's ham-fisted offering. Tower defence with a literal spin, you play a Stetson-wearing armadillo with the Sonic-esque talent of curling into a ball and rolling along the defensive lines in efforts to protect a frontier populated by earnest animals in human clothes.

The Last Ranger plays just like its 2012 predecessor. The mute Dillon and his talkative gopher partner, Russ, travel from town to town saving citizens' livestock, called Scrogs, from rocky monster scourges, the Grocks.

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Each town acts as a level and each level lasts three days. In this time you'll traverse generously sized dust bowls to upgrade and maintain your various defences. Movement is handled on the touchscreen, where you'll rev up Dillon's shell using a downward flick and keep it in motion by continually swiping at it like a potter's wheel.

Naturally, being played in third-person, rather than from the genre's usual, eye-in-the-sky perspective, travelling between stations is long and sometimes arduous, but diversions litter the way. Smashing rocks gives you gold coins with which to repair and customise the pre-set towers (upgrades come in wood, iron and steel varieties and each can be kitted with shotguns, cannons or Gatling guns).

Mineral mines, meanwhile, contain valuable gems and ore you can pawn off for more gold. Pace is slow, however: NPCs creep through their dialogue, trading plods thanks to a lack of a 'sell all' button, and the act of rolling to each tower is laborious.

Cowboy Beflop

When the sky darkens on the third day, it's fighting time. During encounters with Grocks, Dillon enters a specialised fighting stage reminiscent of wild JRPG encounters. Here, players use simple slashing motions on the bottom screen to launch the armoured mammal at the blundering boulders. While somewhat appealing with the 3D cranked up, it's entirely brainless and feels arbitrary, considering your towers are the primary defence.

The real kicker with tower management here is the lack of any rewind button. Mistakes made during the first day can snowball and return to haunt you when the Grocks finally invade on the third, leaving you with no other option but to begin the whole scenario again. This can destroy half an hour or more's progress.

At least the general vibe goes some way to remedying frustrations. It's pretty hard to stay cross with a game that features a poncho-donning squid who challenges you to a quick-time duel, a snakey weapons merchant called Sal who adds extra 'ssss's to words, or a mountain lion distinctly modelled on Annie Oakley.

While most of these critters stay safe behind the town gates - which you can enter to buy medicine, trade in items found in mines, train skills and increase the Scrog population by feeding them marshmallow-like Scruffles you've collected - some accompany you in the field. Keep your reptilian ranger pal Gallo healthy with medicine and he'll pick off stragglers with a limb-flailing, cloud-puffing fight animation.

Sadly, despite an endearing cast of critters and a neat central premise - tower defence rarely gives the player this kind of agency - it's too slow, shallow and cumbersome to recommend.

Nintendo Co., Ltd. is the owner of certain copyright which subsists and trade marks and other intellectual property rights in certain content, characters, artwork, logos, scripts and representations used in this publication. All rights are expressly recognised and they are used by Future Publishing Limited under licence © 2006 Nintendo Co., Ltd. All rights reserved. "Nintendo", "International Nintendo Licensed Product" "Nintendo DS", "Nintendo DS Lite", "Nintendo DSi", "Nintendo 3DS", "Nintendo DSi XL", "Nintendo 3DS XL", "Wii" and "Wii U" and the associated logos are the trademarks of Nintendo Co. Ltd. All rights reserved.