Real-time strategy games and consoles typically don’t go well together. The genre is all about managing a lot of different jobs very quickly, and, typically, the best way to do that is with a mouse and keyboard. But Bad North, which launched last month, goes against this conventional wisdom. It pares back the genre to its bare essentials, creating something that’s streamlined and approachable instead of overwhelming. It’s the rare RTS that works well with a controller. “We’ve made a conscious effort to resist adding a lot of complexity to the game,” says Oskar Stålberg, one half of Bad North developer Plausible Concept.

The first thing you’ll notice about Bad North — or maybe the second, after its cute and clean visuals — is that it takes place at a small and very manageable scale. The goal of each level is to defend a small island from invading Vikings. Each island has a handful of houses, and the intruders come in waves, their tiny boats filled with angry soldiers. You guide a small number of units — at the beginning, you only have two — each led by a particular commander. As the Viking forces come in, you need to make sure your units are in the right place to stop them so they don’t burn down the houses.

The complexity ratchets up from there; you’ll gain new commanders as you rescue islands and unlock skills and items to customize your forces. Eventually, you’ll have teams of archers and melee units fighting on increasingly challenging battlefields. The game gets hard, but it never gets unwieldy. Bad North features a simple control scheme that includes a slow-down…