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Video Game / Iron Brigade

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"Turn No Man's Land into Real Man's Land!"

Iron Brigade (formerly known as Trenched) is Double Fine's fourth downloadable game as part of their Amnesia Fortnights venture, changing the studio from making one large title every few years to making multiple small games in one year.

The year is 1926, and the world is being invaded by monsters made completely out of primitive television sets known as Monovisions or Tubes, which no conventional military has been able to defeat. The only force capable of facing them is the Mobile Trench Brigade, an elite squad of soldiers trained to use Mobile Trenches, which are quite literally World War I trenches slapped on a pair of robot legs, with a human soldier operating the whole thing from inside the trench.

It all began during World War I, when American soldier Frank Woodruff survives getting his legs crushed by a tank and is reassigned to a radio listening post in the Pacific to listen in on enemy radio transmissions. While there, he befriends Vladimir Farnsworth, another crippled soldier. While working, they listen in on an unknown signal, later dubbed the "Broadcast", that killed all who heard it except for Woodruff and Vlad. Instead, they gained supernatural genius.

Woodruff used his newly found genius to invent mobile robotic legs to help his fellow disabled veterans. Vlad used his gifts to invent the "Monovision", in an attempt to bring the world to the comfort of your home. Unfortunately, the end result was the horrors of the world coming straight to him (along with really crappy programming), which drove him to insanity. Vlad then created a race of mechanical monsters made entirely of television sets, which shared the name of Vlad's invention. Colonel Woodruff equips the mobile robotic legs he developed with weapons, and forms the Mobile Trench Brigade to fight his former friend's creations.

The game is a Spiritual Successor to Brütal Legend, with a slant towards Monday Night Combat. Rather than commanding free roaming units like a Real-Time Strategy game, the game combines action with Tower Defense. Each player has the ability to customize their Mobile Trench with over 200 different parts. The Trenches are divided into three types, Standard Trenches balancing weapons and turrets, Engineering Trenches with lighter weapons but more turret emplacements, or Assault Trenches with limited turrets but the greatest weapons capacity.

The game was originally published by Microsoft and released in 2011 for Xbox 360, then in 2012 for Microsoft Windows, bundled with Games for Windows Live in the latter case. On May 28, 2015, Double Fine got the IP rights the PC version of the game was switched from Games for Windows Live to Steamworks for matchmaking, squashing several Game Breaking Bugs in the process.

This game provides examples of:

  • Alternate History: Television is invented several decades early and it's evil.
  • Absent Aliens: The Settlement map in the Martian Bear DLC is quite clearly some kind of village, but no inhabitants (human or alien) are mentioned. The only ones in the village are Farnsworth's Tubes.
  • Action Bomb: Blitzers, Knobs, and Cathys all try to get in front of your Trench and blow up in its face. They also blow up when killed, and other Tubes are not exempt from the damage when this happens.
  • A Commander Is You: The player can deploy defensive towers, like in a Tower Defense game.
  • Airborne Mook: Aerial Tubes. The DLC has 'Noids, which aim for you instead.
  • Ambiguous Robots: The Tubes, which are built out of machine parts but have an otherwise very organic looking structure.
  • Artistic License – Engineering: While the Trenches' schematics aren't available, one could guess that punching or kicking the controls shouldn't revive your Trench if it broke down.
  • Artistic License – History: Not like anyone minds, though.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Trenches, before they were re-purposed as weapons, would appear to have been very ungainly as a prosthetic, being very bulky and adding at least 5 feet to the operator's height.
    • Gameplay-wise, Artillery Cannons. Single shot, arcing projectile, long reload, big explosion and high damage. Also, the Gungnir Sniper Cannon, which is single shot and takes much longer to reload than other Sniper Cannons, but has some of the highest damage in the game. Both can be made Simple, yet Awesome when combined with the Quickload ability and some aiming skill on the part of the player, or in the case of the "Mr. Pancakes", a MIRV launcher that not only drops a line of grenades along its arc, but a line of MAGNETIC grenades, which can be a bit of a Game-Breaker when combined with the Quickload ability.
  • Batman Can Breathe in Space: Your Trench Marine can run about in an open-top Trench and without a helmet on Mars with no problems. There is a Spacesuit and Space Helmet for your Marine to wear, but those are just cosmetic.
  • Beard of Evil: Vlad.
    • On the cover of the in-universe Mad Scientist magazine, one article is titled "Which Sinister Beard is Right for Me?"
    • In the DLC even the Bear has one.
  • Barrier Warrior: Jacobs, which project a shield on any nearby Tubes. Although, not on themselves or each other. This allows you to take them out quickly, and you should.
  • BFG: Any Artillery Cannon qualifies (especially "The King" and "Mr. Pancakes"), and even some Sniper Cannons too.
    • The Tubes have their own in the form of the Arty, who will blast your objectives from a distance until you put it down.
    • Some missions have you escorting an artillery gun the size of your Trench.
  • Big Bad Friend: Vladimir Farnsworth. The entire story revolves around him and the Big Good.
  • Brown Note: The "Broadcast". It killed everyone who heard it except for Vlad and Woodruff, who gained superhuman intellect instead.
  • Big Good: Commander Woodruff.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Of the "unlimited ammo pool but still have to reload" variety. Woodruff makes note of it in the tutorial.
    Woodruff: "Don't worry about ammo. We've got more than enough for those Tube bastards."
  • Brain Uploading: The Martian Bear DLC has Vlad upload his mind into his pet bear, Boris.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Blue enemies focus on attacking defense objectives. Teal enemies focus on attacking emplacements. Red enemies focus on attacking the Trench Marines.
  • Color-Coded Item Tiers: Trench weapons also have this treatment, from White (regular), to Green (uncommon, is stronger and/or has a basic ability), to Blue (rare, is even stronger and/or has even better abilities), to Purple (very rare, but is also very powerful and/or has top-grade abilities). Red weapons are also available in the Rise of the Martian Bear campaign, which are even stronger.
  • Comes Great Responsibility: Woodruff used his Broadcast-granted intellect to make Diesel Punk prosthetics for wounded veterans. Farnsworth made the Monovision, and look where that went.
  • Competitive Balance:
  • Cool Boat: The USS McKinley, a re-purposed aircraft carrier with a crapton of extra guns and legs!
  • Death Ray: Broadcasters, weaponized broadcasters which also have some gameplay elements reminiscent of flamethrowers.
  • Diesel Punk: Swimming in it. Everything is made of steel, consumes vast quantities on plentiful gasoline, belches smoke, and is incredibly overbuilt.
  • Downloadable Content: Rise of the Martian Bear, which provides a new campaign (set on Mars!) with new, stronger enemies and Trench equipment. Is included for free with the PC version.
  • Draw Aggro: One level of the Martian Bear DLC gives you two towers designed to draw fire away from your objectives. It's up to you whether you want to use them or not.
  • Dual Mode Unit: Fitting a set of Tripod Legs to your Trench allows you to Lock Down your Trench to raise Defense or speed up your reload at the cost of mobility.
  • Easy Logistics: The Trenches burn through five-thousand gallons of gasoline per Trench per week. Good thing your supply is uninterrupted.
  • The Engineer: The player characters, all of whom can place turrets almost anywhere. Different trench chassis play the trope slightly differently, being able to deploy different turrets.
    • Engineering Trenches trade firepower for the ability to place a wider variety of turrets. They are also Fragile Speedsters, as they lack armor but move quickly.
  • Escort Mission: The penultimate level of the Martian level pack has you defending a giant mobile artillery gun as it blasts its way through Vlad's martian fortress. Downplayed in that for most of the level it plays exactly the same as all the other levels, except for having to defend it while it moves forward to another firing spot.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Vlad likes to showboat in his announcements, and his flying television thing often shows him Milking the Giant Cow.
  • Fighting Your Friend: Woodruff vs. Farnsworth.
  • Flaunting Your Fleets: Subtle, but while on the deck of the McKinnley, players can see vast number of bombers flying air cover above the ship in perfect formation.
  • Funny Foreigner: Josef Kowalski, a Polish trench marine, is sometimes played like that, complaining about his equipment and taunting Monovisions in a cheesy accent. Ditto for Claude Stanley, except his accent is that of a stereotypical Brit.
    Kowalski: "Polish gun would be ready by now!"
  • Genre-Busting: Tower Defense meets Mech Shooter, and you can play it either way.
  • Giant Squid: A mechanical one serves as the Pacific campaign's boss battle.
  • The Goomba: Resistors.
  • Grenade Launcher: The players have Grenade Launcher weapons and Mortar Turrets. The Tubes get the Burst Transmitter, who will target the player's Turrets.
  • Handicapped Badass: Both Colonel Woodruff and Vlad Farnsworth. Bonus points go to Woodruff, who commands the Mobile Trench Brigade from the comfort of an Iron Lung with robot arms for both typing and holding his cigar. Vlad's handicap? Prolonged exposure to the raw, unfiltered Broadcast has turned him into an infant with an adult's head (somehow without damaging his superhuman intellect).
  • Heal Thyself: Players can call down Repair Towers to help patch up their Trenches. This is the only way for players to repair themselves in the middle of a fight.
  • Heavily Armored Mook: Breakers. Changes once they're hit with an explosive weapon, though they can be killed without using them.
  • Hold the Line: Every level, except the ones against bosses.
  • Humongous Mecha: The Mobile Trenches.
  • Indecisive Parody: It's not completely clear whether the game falls under Rated M for Manly or Testosterone Poisoning, at times obviously parodical in its extreme "manliness", but other times seeming to play it straight.
  • Mad Scientist: Vlad.
  • Mechanical Monster: The Monovisions are as much machine as creature, and more disturbing to look at than either would be alone.
  • Mission Control: Woodruff serves as this from his iron lung on-board the USS McKinley.
  • Mook Maker: Big Bertha can spawn more Knobs while she moves towards your objectives.
  • Money Spider: Justified in that dead tubes drop Scrap, which is used to build and send out your turrets.
  • More Dakka: A single Assault Trench can be outfitted with up to six machine guns, some of which have multiple barrels. On top of that, it can be assisted by even more machine gun turrets.
  • No Export for You: The European version of the game was taken down within hours of its release due to copyright issues regarding the game's title in Portugal, which prompted an unusually radical solution (see Orwellian Retcon).
  • Old Media Are Evil: Taken to extremes, and played for laughs. Vlad invented television decades before it was invented in real life. Because of this early development, the horrors of the world coming to him, combined with the resulting programming being so primitive and crappy, drove him insane.
  • Orwellian Retcon: Due to EU copyright issues with the name Trenched, the game's name was changed in all territories to Iron Brigade.
    • There is a technical reason for the change affecting all regions: If the EU was the only region going by Iron Brigade and everywhere else was Trenched, EU players would be limited to multiplayer with only other EU players (an issue with games with two different names connecting over Xbox Live).
  • Pinball Projectile Sniper Cannons with the RICOCHET and RICOCHET+ can act like this.
    • The "Rise of the Martian Bear" DLC adds all sorts of oddball weapons, including RICOCHET Machine Guns (the "80-UNC 3 Indirect MG"), of which the flavor text says, "One would think that years of technological advances were involved in the creation of this weapon. In actuality, we just filled it with spring-loaded bullets, and somehow it worked."
  • Power-Up Magnet: Prong Towers automatically collect Scrap from dead tubes.
  • Random Drops: Sometimes dead Tubes drop Loot Crates, containing goodies like new weapons, Trench parts, or a spiffy helmet.
  • Rated M for Manly: Double Fine was inspired by silly "manly man" magazines from The '40s and The '50s. They use the magazine shown in this trope's page as source material!
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Woodruff and Farnsworth's inventions are spiritual opposites of each other. Woodruff's Humongous Mecha are intended to let disabled veterans walk again. Farnsworth's Monovision was intended to bring the world to you instead.
  • Sand Worm: The Africa and Europe bosses.
  • Schizo Tech: Monsters made out of TV sets, trenches slapped on mech legs, and a gigantic aircraft carrier with legs that gets turned into a spaceship.
  • Sentry Gun: The player-deployed turrets.
  • Sequel Hook: Even after defeating Vlad, Woodruff states that the source and purpose of the "Broadcast" is unknown and that it may return.
    Woodruff: "I do know one thing, that we'll be ready for it."
  • Shockwave Stomp: The Quadruped legs have a ground smash as their special ability.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: In addition to shotguns for your Trench, your most basic turrets have shotguns.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Showrunner: Brad Muir.
  • Recursive Ammo: Weapons with the MIRV trait will drop exploding submunitions along their flight path until they hit their target. Firing them with a high arc allows you to rain down grenades onto groups of enemies.
    • The Cluster trait will have the main shell explode and spread smaller shells, thus turning an area, and anything in it, into one giant explosion.
  • Simple, yet Awesome: Purple quality weapons usually have incredibly useful effects as well as high damage, such as a fully automatic shotgun or a machine gun with exploding rounds. Good luck finding one, though.
  • Shoot the Medic First: Jacobs Tubes will provide energy shields to all nearby tubes, making attacks deal Scratch Damage to them. As such, destroying them is first priority. Thankfully, they can't shield themselves or other Jacobs.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Woodruff, hilariously, has an attachment on his iron lung meant specifically to hold his cigar.
    • The Marine also dons a cigar before repairing his trench, should it be downed.
    • Heck, the Mobile Trenches themselves have a built-in cigar humidor, just to make sure the pilot always has a supply in good condition.
  • Sniper Rifle: The Sniper Cannons fill this niche for the Mobile Trench Brigade. The Tubes have the Snipe Tuner, which target your trench.
  • Splash Damage Abuse: Blitzer Tubes blow up everything in an area around them when killed. Including other Tubes and especially other Blitzers, allowing you to make them chain-reaction blow up a huge wave if timed correctly.
  • Sound-Coded for Your Convenience: Each Tube type has a distinctive cry, helping you identify what Tubes are coming in if you have your back turned.
  • Sprint Shoes: Equipping the right set of Biped legs allows your Trench to sprint. Handy for when you need to get to the other side of the field, but you can't turn.
  • Stealth Pun: "This one's for you, tube!"
  • Suicide Attack: The Blitzers' and Knobs' only form of attack, consisting of running/rolling to your location and blowing up in your face.
    • The DLC features Cathodes/Cathys, which act like Blitzers but are smaller and come in large numbers to swarm your Trench.
  • Taunt Button: While on the ship, the fire buttons (LT/RT for Xbox, L2/R2 for PS3) instead let your marine "salute". Depending on what kind of hat you're wearing, it can range from an actual military salute to various silly gestures, up to and including the hand gesture for Bobby Zilch's dance should you be wearing a specific helmet.
  • Testosterone Poisoning: They were shooting for this at least some of the time, but how often as opposed to straight Rated M for Manly can be hard to tell — see Indecisive Parody above.
  • The Turret Master: Half of the gameplay is laying down turrets to help you defend your objectives.
  • Voice of the Legion: Vlad.
  • Walking Tank: The Trenches carry this aesthetic.
    • Some missions feature a literal Walking Artillery Gun you have to protect.
  • War Has Never Been So Much Fun
  • We Can Rule Together: Vlad asks Woodruff to join him and spread "the word of the Broadcast". Woodruff tells Vlad where to stick it.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Woodruff Jr.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Vlad.
  • Zerg Rush: The Blitzers and Knobs, who suicide rush players and turret emplacements respectively.

Alternative Title(s): Trenched