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'Dillon' shows us the wimpy, wimpy west

Mar 21, 2012

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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Dillon's  Rolling WesternThe tower defense genre may not be as popular as first person shooter or role-playing games that have saturated the market in recent years, but it's not for lack of quality or entertainment value.

They're fun for all sorts of reasons - they're strategic and require quick thinking, they're easy to pick up and play, and they give a real sense of progress and improvement.

Dillon's Rolling Western, a downloadable tower defense/action hybrid game on the Nintendo 3DS eShop, conveys none of these things.

The game has you controlling Dillon, an armadillo ranger who travels the Wild West, helping defend towns from creatures called Grocks. These ugly-looking monsters have been stealing livestock called Scruffle Hogs ("Scrogs") from several nearly-defenceless towns.

Each time you visit a town, Dillon stays for three days. He begins each day collecting items, scavenging for money, raising the number of Scrogs, and building defences. When the sun sets, the Grocks come out of their caves and make their way to the town's main gates, behind which the Scrogs are being kept. If your number of Scrogs reaches zero, it's game over.

It's not long before the game's issues come into focus. The player will soon realize the gathering consists of the same few things done repeatedly over the course of the three days.

Dillon will enter caves and destroy mineral piles to collect what's inside them. He'll pick up Scruffles, which is what the Scrogs eat, and they're what are needed to earn more Scrogs. He'll also build up the few defensive armaments spread throughout the area surrounding the town's main gates.

Dillon's  Rolling Western Beyond that, there's really not much to do but wait for the sun to set. Dillon will encounter the occasional enemy that can be dispatched without breaking a sweat, and he'll find the odd door to a room that holds a "special" item, one that usually isn't all that special and will only net Dillon a few extra dollars if he sells it.

Things get a little more interesting once the Grocks do come out, but it's more a lesson in frustration than anything.

The Grocks can and do pop out of holes throughout the map. Whatever guns you've set up will take out some baddies, but the majority of the fighting is done by Dillon himself. It works like an old-school RPG, where Dillon will touch a large enemy on the map, and this will initiate a new screen opening up where Dillon will be in a real-time battle against several Grocks.

These battles are really nothing to write home about, and though new enemies are added in most towns, defeating the majority of them is done the same way. Players move Dillon using the circle pad, and everything else is done with the stylus and touch screen.

Dillon's attacks all begin with him rolling himself up into a ball (by sliding the stylus back from the opposite direction you want to go) and launching himself at his target (simply take the stylus off the touch screen). The controls are generally solid and easy to learn.

New moves are opened up in many towns, but it's usually best to stick to the same few moves that tend to do the most damage to the most Grocks. It may be strategic to stick to those moves, but it's also more boring than watching a tumbleweed roll around a deserted town square for an entire afternoon.

The other big problem with the game is that Dillon never seems to accumulate enough cash to truly make an overpowering force with his defences. Although you'll cash in a decent amount of money at the end of each third day, you can only take so much at the beginning of subsequent days. Embarrassingly, the only way it seems you can open up the ability to take out more cash is by dying.

Dillon's  Rolling Western The few towers that exist cost a lot of money not just to build, but to equip with guns. It was rare that I could come to a new town and equip more than a couple of towers on any given day. Not only that, but travelling Grocks can and will attack these towers, meaning all that work you did and money you spent all goes down the drain with a few Grock head butts.

The same goes for equipment upgrades. You can buy more powerful equipment that will certainly help Dillon in his quest to hunt Grocks, but these also degrade over time. This would all be a little easier to swallow if Dillon made decent cash selling items, but that's simply not the case.

It seems the game does everything in its power to keep the player from feeling a sense of accomplishment and progression. A challenge is one thing, but Dillon's Rolling Western feels unfair more than anything.

There are other problems, including the maps themselves. You travel almost exclusively in ball form, but it seems there are endless roadblocks, so to speak. So instead hopping down from that ledge to the cave you want to go into below, you'll have to travel halfway across the map because the top of the ledge is surrounded by a short fence that blocks Dillon's progress.

The developers tried to throw in a few other additions to change things up, but they too do more to impede progress than anything. For instance, in between days, Dillon can visit a saloon where he can talk to patrons and take quests.

Dillon's  Rolling Western Problem is, finishing the quests will earn Dillon very little money considering it will often keep him away from other money-earning endeavors, and if he fails to complete a quest, he actually loses money.

On top of all this, the player is given a time limit for completing each day. The less time it takes you to successfully defend a town for three days, the more stars you're awarded. But with such a lack of money available during initial visits, it's almost a foregone conclusion that you'll have to revisit each town, digging into your savings in order to build more defences, to finish off the Grocks more quickly, to earn you more stars, to open up neighboring towns.

For the gamer that likes a huge challenge and is okay with repetition - a lot of repetition - Dillon's Rolling Western is a unique take on the tower defense genre.

Otherwise, it's best to be wary of this game. It tries to shake things up, but doesn't quite succeed.


Dillon's Rolling Western
Format: Nintendo 3DS
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Vanpool
ESRB Rating: E10+ for Everyone 10+
Official Site:

Rating: 3.5 / 10

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