Robin Hood: Defender of the Crown is essentially a version of Risk, the Parker Brothers' military strategy game in which you fight for control of territories adjacent to yours. In Defender of the Crown, you play as the legendary Robin Hood, instead of as some anonymous tactician, and fight for control of England, instead of the entire globe. Other iterations of the game, such as the consummate Amiga version, were very rewarding. Unfortunately, Digital Bridges' mobile version suffers from some fundamental design flaws that prevent it from re-creating this experience.
Defender of the Crown is loosely based on the movie Ivanhoe, in which a civil war breaks out between rival lords after King Richard's death. Each of the King's former vassals annexes a small plot of England, with the intention of conquering more. As Sir Robin of Locksley, your intentions are--no doubt--much more honorable than those of your competitors. That said, you'll be doing quite a bit of looting and murdering in order to accomplish your noble goals.
The majority of the game takes place between a menu and a world map. From the menu, you can buy an army and command it to go somewhere in England with the intention of winning that area in battle. That done, you can assign--through a really counterintuitive process--some of your forces to remain in that province to act as a garrison. Strangely enough, it's impossible to switch between provinces in order to call your garrisoned men to arms. Furthermore, you'll have to remember how many units you've stationed where, because there's no way to tell until your opponent attacks you, and then you find out the hard way.
In order to switch control from one region to another, you must first enter the "transfer units" menu, then select "no units to transfer," click "ok," and choose, from the dialogue box that appears, to return to your base--the first province you owned. Now, you'll once again be free to raise an army and take it somewhere within your territory. You can only have one mobile army, and where that army stands is the area over which you have control. Making matters worse, is the fact that when you purchase soldiers they'll be automatically generated at your home base, so you'll have to return there, via the process described above, in order to use them.
Managing a single, standing army isn't a particularly thrilling way to do combat. It's also incredibly frustrating to be so limited, especially when your artificial intelligence opponents are constantly and ferociously attacking you, which they do regardless of the difficulty setting. Of course, you can always even the odds with one of the lords by raiding his castle or challenging him to a knightly joust. Sadly, the mechanics of both these real-time segments are completely broken. Raiding a castle means rapidly pressing the 5 key when anyone gets near you. Robin will display his world-renowned fencing skills at an astonishing five frames per second. Jousts, which require an ante of fame or land, take place in a rustic, Renaissance faire setting, and require you only to aim your lance. It's really unapparent where it should be aimed, however, as every direction seems to result in failure. Seeing the people's champion defeated so often must be demoralizing for the oppressed citizens of a war-torn England.
In the audiovisual department, Robin Hood: Defender of the Crown is certainly not a standout. Its graphics are roughly on par with the NES version of the game. The game's color palette is a bit richer than that of its 8-bit predecessor, but its animation is considerably slower during the real-time segments. Sound is almost nonexistent--only a short, subdued MIDI plays over the game's splash screen. Apart from that, you'll be conquering in silence.
The mobile Robin Hood: Defender of the Crown is not the game you remember from your Amiga or Commodore 64 days. It benefits from the great concept of its predecessors, but it is unable to deliver an interface worthy of its pedigree. Without the ability to control multiple armies, or manage several provinces at once, this game is just an exercise in frustration.