From Big Top 10 (our pick for best numerical-based casual game of 2009) to Puzzlings, Bight Games is a company that consistently releases high quality titles, and their latest, Fleeced! – Shear Terror is no exception.

In a nutshell, Fleeced! is a cannonball firing/llama shearing 3rd-person castle-defense/strategy game. If that sounds like an odd combination to you…well it is, but it works beautifully! The basic goal of the game is to protect your llama at all costs! It’s an all out war as you and your Peruvian brother trade cannon blasts at each other’s llama pens trying desperately to create an opening for the llama rustler to get in and steal some of your opponent’s llama’s wool. Once one of the llamas is naked (hopefully his) the game is over. You must find a balance between gathering money for upgrades, repairing your defenses and firing shots at your brother’s llama pen if you want to be successful.

When your opponent’s cannon balls hit your walls or cannons, they will get damaged and you will need to repair them to either continue to fire, or keep the rustler out of your pen. After a cannon is fired, you will need to wait a period of time for it to recharge before it can be used again, so it is beneficial to build more than one. Money will randomly appear, collect this (before it disappears) to purchase wall upgrades, or bigger and better cannons, some of which fire multiple balls at a time. There are also a number of special power-ups that will appear throughout the match, including one that instantly repairs all of your damaged walls and cannons, another that instantly reloads your armaments, one that makes you run faster and even another that swaps llamas with your opponent.

There is a single-player campaign/story mode as well as a one or two player (local wifi, bluetooth or internet) arcade mode. OpenFeint integration adds 39 unlockable achievements to the game as well. Internet-multiplayer matchups are done via a blind pairing, but since Fleeced! has OpenFeint support, it’d be nice if (at the very least) you were shown your opponent’s OpenFeint ID when the match commences. Obviously it’d be even better if you could somehow setup your own matches against a specific opponent online. We often found it difficult to find someone to play against online, even at times when we would have expected a large number of people to be playing.

Fleeced! is a wonderfully fresh take on the castle defense/strategy genre and has some great 3D graphics, sound effects and smooth controls. The game’s controls may take a tiny bit of time to get used to, but once you do, you’ll see that it is actually very intuitive and enjoyable. A virtual d-pad on the left is used to move your player around. On the right are a series of four buttons including a ‘fire’ button to fire the cannon you are currently manning and a ‘build’ button, to bring up the store to purchase a new cannon. There is also a “sell” button to sell of the currently active cannon for money, and finally there is a Fix/Upgrade button which is used to repair or upgrade damaged walls and cannons. After firing a cannon, the accelerometer is used to aim the ball(s) whilst still in the air, simply tilt your device to alter the path of the projectile.

The player’s view is from the third person, but the camera angle is low enough, that you actually feel like you are in the pen, performing the actions yourself. Although, there is a downside to this, as you cannot constantly monitor ALL the walls of your pen without always running around and checking them (and some of these pens are BIG). One way to fix this, would be to move the camera out further, but this would lose some of the game’s intimate feel. Instead, we’d recommend replacing the image in the top-right corner (currently showing your opponent’s money) with a mini-map that shows a top-down view of your entire pen, hilighting critical areas in various colors (like defcon levels), so you can quickly see what needs to be repaired.

One other slight annoyance is the rustler’s relentlessness. As it is right now, if you don’t repair a wall section as soon as the rustler comes in, he’ll shear your llama, exit and come right back in for another shearing. Sometimes you have no idea that your pen has even been breached until after you see the rustler in your pen, shearing, leaving you to scramble to find the hole! The aforementioned mini map may alleviate this, but if not, it might be nice if the rustler took a little lap around the block (or something) after the first shearing to give you a moment to recover.

Honestly, even these few minor issues with monitoring your defenses and the rustler and the difficulty in establishing online multi-player match-ups do not detract from the shear fun of this game. Fleeced! is a crazy, entertaining and addictive game with a style all its own. With gameplay elements that touch all kinds of genres from strategy to castle defense and time management, everyone is likely to find some particular aspect of the game that appeals to them. You must experience it for yourself and with it still being 50% off, there is simply no excuse not to!

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