When you think back to old-school arcade games, the hazy mist of nostalgia and the technical limitations of the day tend to obscure the fact that you were laying waste to hordes of enemies. There’s a lot of retro homage in Burn and Turn and you are clearly doling out fiery death to fools but the hybrid release has a lot more going for it than just an 1980s aesthetic.
In Burn and Turn, you control a fire-breathing dragon who must scoop up princesses from the field and deposit them in a castle before knights kill them. Creeps come in a few different classes, including wizards who spawn hordes of the undead to attack your base. If a knight reaches your castle while it holds princesses, they scatter out and you’ll need to recollect them. When a knight breaches an empty castle, it crumbles and it’s game over once all your castles are demolished.
The flying controls take some getting used but work in a slightly indirect way. It’s almost as if you’re pulling an invisible string attached the dragon. With the flying and burning up of enemies, there’s more active engagement than in most tower defence games and the strategy’s surprisingly robust, too. You can’t just focus on killing knights or other creeps to be successful; you’ll need to decide when to fly out and grab power-ups or when to stay perched on the parapets of your castles and blast away. Your dragon doesn’t have infinite flame-breath, either — it refreshes quickly, though — so you need to be judicious about how much you shoot.
Burn and Turn started as a student project in UCLA’s Game Lab and shows a lot of clever promise for a title turned out by neophyte designers. It’s a nice example of how to remix and scale up the simplicity found in classics like Joust or Robotron 2084 with design mechanics that are more common today. Plus, it’ll make you laugh, whether you get the old-school arcade game references or not.