Most people are pretty familiar with turn-based strategy games. They are fun and all, but can usually bore you to death if you are not really that into the concept. For those that are not into the slow paced nature of these games, Skulls of the Shogun meets on even ground for fans of both turn-based and the fast paced. In simpler terms, this game is a turn-based game on speed. Skulls of the Shogun’s basic mechanics recall shades of the Advance Wars series with some unique and amusing concepts that set the game apart from its strategy brethren.
I had a chance to check out this game at PAX East, and the first thing that attracted me to the game were the graphics. They reminded me in some ways of the XBLA game Castle Crashers, as everything has a very bold color scheme and the characters designs were clever and cute. Cute being used loosely, as they are skeleton warriors. Each team has a couple of each class of character, and each class has its own advantages. Much like in chess, there is a leader of your team (the shogun) that if defeated will cause your team to lose.
Your skeleton warriors would not be very intimidating if they did not act like dead things, would they? Luckily, when you are not bashing away your enemies you are “haunting” things. All across the level, there are numerous temples and idols to haunt. Different temples do different things, and they can be haunted by one team or the other to gain the effects. Rice paddies, when haunted, are ultimately converted into money that can be used to buy new warriors. Haunting a certain temple can yield you new warriors, and haunting one of the idols in the game can give you a sorcerer-like creature that can cast spells. I was unfortunate enough to summon a demon, who proceeded to not only hurt the enemy team but also hurt my warriors if they got in the way. Also, you may be wondering about the “skulls” portion of Skulls of the Shogun. Consuming enemy skulls after you defeat them will make you more powerful, and is a great way to rub it in to your enemy.
Skulls of the Shogun requires you to really think on your feet because although you are allotted turns and everything is on a time limit (at least for the versus mode that I played). The game supports up to 4 players, and has a campaign with around 20 levels. Aside from the campaign mode, there are also team-play and free-for-all modes. There also is full support for losing a player during a game, as the game will load up from a previous point so as to not interrupt game play.
When can you play this awesomeness? Haunted Temple Studios, the developers of Skulls, aim for a release in late summer of this year with a possible price tag of $15 (XBLA/PC). You can stay tuned here at MTB, for an exact date and price as soon as they announce it though. The late summer release is exclusively for XBLA, but other platforms will have access to the game at a later date. The iPod/iPad version of the game will be released in chunks of a few levels at a time.