But how must the Orcs die? My favourite way is by trafficking them through a series of ornate barricades, funnelling them into pits of lava via bouncy springs or dismembering them as they pass much too close to some spinning whirligigs. What can I say? I'm English, so planning impeccable queuing systems is one of my favourite pastimes.
My overcomplicated solutions are a largely unnecessary way to shepherd the Orcs to their promised demise, of course, but they're real goodies - complete with slapstick spring noises and the kind of whoomph sound reserved specifically for top-tier slapstick. Orcs Must Die! 2, a PC-exclusive sequel released a swift nine months after the original, doesn't do much to build on the minutiae of its predecessor, but there's more than enough life in the old dog to warrant another go.
Expect plenty of repetition, mind. This third-person tower defence sequel lifts many assets from the original, including traps, music, animations and most of the ill-fated Orcs themselves. Developer Robot Entertainment adds a few new touches under the hood to keep the action ticking along in areas where the original faltered, however, and it's hard to begrudge two excellent games for their similarity when both are available digitally at such a minuscule price.
Feedback, for instance, is vastly improved in this sequel. The game goes to far greater lengths to tell players the exact locations of the throngs of enemy orcs, trolls and gnolls, barking locations whenever your opposition tries to outflank or approach from behind. This means, for the most part, you're not left angrily hitting the restart button when some unseen enemy manages to slip past you in a level you felt you were managing perfectly. Orcs Must Die! 2 is also far more proactive about telling you when zippy sappers are about to attack you in drones, giving you just enough time to batten down the hatches.
There's a handful of new traps to unlock, though few of these will replace the bread-and-butter combinations you'll have nurtured by the point they unlock, alongside the dozens returning from the original. This is a game that absolutely revels in cartoon slaughter, and there's always a pang of deep satisfaction no matter how many times you see a pack of nasties wade through a tar pit and fall victim to another volley of arrows.
How you upgrade your equipment has also been refreshed, the game doing away with the fiddly Weaver mechanic and instead allowing you progress through multiple tiers of upgrades across your sprawling arsenal of death-dealing traps, and usually finished off with a this-or-that perk bonus for each trap. The distribution of skulls is also much more copious, both during the game itself (as random item drops) alongside post-match bonuses and rewards in the game's new Endless mode. While unlocking everything will require grinding through levels multiple times, customising your perfect selection is possible much sooner in the game than before.
But it's the game's main selling point, online co-op play with the game's new Sorceress character, which changes the dynamic most significantly. Two players makes managing multiple choke points much easier; it is unsurprisingly easier when another play has quite literally got your back. Each of the game's sixteen levels can be played in single-player, but some of them (later ones especially) seem designed specifically for co-operative play.
With cross-crossing junctions, multiple vantage points and intertwined corridors, some of the game's co-op levels are a real treat - though two competent players will definitely want to up the difficulty level slightly once they've levelled up their character a little bit. The same difficulty spikes that affected the first game rear their head here in single-player mode, though, especially in those aforementioned later levels. Still, much of the single-player game seems to ping pong being a doddle to near-impossible, though much of that will be for obsessive sticklers (like me) who have a hard time accepting anything other than the game's maximum five-star rating.
The Sorceress is a fun character, with a selection of spells designed to charm and control orcs, but it's the returning War Mage who is still the most fun, especially with his particularly lethal new blunderbuss weapon, which you get from the beginning of the game. Sadly the single-player game restricts player profiles to choose one or the other, meaning you can't just switch to the other character when you fancy a change - a curious oversight for a game that goes to considerable lengths to promote player choice elsewhere.
Even though much of Orcs Must Die! 2 feels like it's an expansion rather than a fully-fledged sequel, Robot Entertainment adds and refines just enough to get away with it. Besides, you'll be having too much fun knocking back waves and waves of all those nasty Orcs to care.
Version Tested: PC