Despite growing up in a city where people love to put garden gnomes in front of their houses, I never had any particular feelings about those creatures before. After playing Gnome More War, I have strong feelings about gnomes now—and an inexplicable urge to shoot them in their smug little faces.
Originally released as a mobile game, solo-developer Hobbi Games has now brought Gnome More War to the Nintendo Switch, with additional features, more characters, and, of course, more gnomes. The pesky little thieves take centre stage in this tower defence/action shooter hybrid, always up to no good in their attempts to steal the goblin villagers’ chickens. It’s our job to defend the precious poultry and send the gnomes to hell. But they won’t stop coming. They’ll never stop.
Before we enter the map, we get to choose one of three characters, each with slightly different shooting capabilities. And then we’re off to fight the war – cosily seated in a cart of our choice. Our goblin friends provide support by dangling the player off a cliff, moving the cart up or down to take better aim at our foes. The concept sounds simple enough, but this game is far from easy—thanks to the endless waves of gnomes intruding into our farms and towns, with ever craftier skills.
Fortunately, the gnomes aren’t the only ones with tricks up their sleeves. In the war room, plenty of upgrades are available to turn us into more effective gnome-exterminators, in exchange for coins and other resources. The available upgrades include new offensive skills for our weapon and a selection of defensive skills. These range from shields to keep our cart safe, to summoned barriers blocking the gnomes from reaching the chickens, to restocks for our health and resources.
Additionally, we can enlist our various goblin friends to help out. Some join the player in battle, shooting arrows at the gnomes or, less subtly, flinging massive stones at them with a catapult. Others provide more passive bonuses, like armour for our cart, or increased spawn rates for the skills we so desperately need to take out the gnomish plague. The game features six maps in total, each spawning more gnomes than the last. Without a carefully selected assortment of upgrades, players stand no chance against the downpour of gnomes.
Even before playing, Gnome More War immediately gave me intense retro vibes. There are the graphics of course, which reminded me of the PC games I used to play as a kid; the game mechanics, that feel like one of those browser games you open to play for five minutes but end up playing for hours instead. Part of this charm comes from the game’s difficulty. Gnome More War is not easy and demands your full attention, but it’s worth it – because shooting gnomes is so, so satisfying.
Another thing worth mentioning is the co-op mode, newly introduced in the Switch port. With two players to harass the gnomes at once, I can imagine the game being a little easier to play, while also more fun. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to play this mode yet.
But as fun as the game is, I do have a few nitpicks. For one, the upgrades are costly and require playing each map a few times to grind for resources. And while a small cutscene after a finished map is nice, it gets tiring to watch the same scenes multiple times, with no option to skip. Another worry is the replayability. Gnome More War is a small game, partly owed to its mobile game origin. Six maps are an entirely reasonable scope for this genre, especially considering the one-person development team behind the game and the game’s very generous price tag. But after finishing all the maps and buying the best upgrades, I’m not sure how much else there is to do.
And this brings me to my biggest issue—game freezing bugs that kept me from finishing some maps. Since the Switch version is still new, I’m hoping this is something that will get fixed eventually.
All in all, Gnome More War is a fun game that knows how to both challenge and infuse you with a strong dislike for gnomes.