Moonlight Minions will have you swimming with the fishes

Posted: September 21, 2009 in Tower Defense

You would think that with all the tower defense games in the iTunes store that I would grow tired with the category. Well, I haven’t especially when something such as Moonlight Minions crosses my path that not only creates a visually eye catching game, but also introduces new gameplay elements. The TD concept is nothing knew, but Moonlight Minions manages to bring a refreshingly fun take to the platform.

The task at hand in Moonlight Minions is to protect 16 fantastic forests from these hordes of ghoulish creatures intent on destroying them. Each unlockable fixed path map can be played in Classic or Endless Mode within 3 levels of difficulty—easy, medium and hard. You’ll have array of defenses at your side as you battle strange looking creatures some with unusual abilities that move swiftly on the ground and in the air. In addition, the bosses who make their appearance known with a screen shaking introduction, have their own tricks up their sleeves or fins.

Visually, the game creates an immersive fantasy experience with an array of electric blues and greens complemented by dark-hue pastels and an overally hazy effect. Whimsical is a word that comes to mind so it succeeds on that mark. The theme music is reminiscent of something you would hear in an Alfred Hitchcock classic, while the in-game sound is limited to sound effects you’d hear in a swampy marsh.

** 16 Fixed Path Maps/Rounds (or attack waves)
Twisted Grove/20
Bramble Way/20
Drythorn/25
The Mire/25
Bramble Way II/30
Twisted Grove II/30
Bramble Way III/40
Drythorn II/30
The Mire II/35
Twisted Grove III/40
The Mire III/40
Drythorn III/50
Bramble Way IV/40
Twisted Grove IV/40
The Mire IV/50
Drythorn IV/50

While the game includes a pan function accomplished by dragging the screen, one shortcoming is the lack of zoom which makes it impossible to see the map in its entirety at once. Local scores are maintained based on round and indicates kills with online scores based on mode, map and difficulty. The game also has an auto save function for those moments that just can’t wait.

The minions or enemies are really what differentiate this TD game from others. Variations of reptiles and sea creatures, there are 6 types of minions that take to the air and prowl the ground. Besides attacking in great numbers, these minions have special abilities that become more apparent the further you progress through the levels. Powers include the ability to teleport bypassing defenses, cloak themselves, destroy defenses, spawn into more minions, and most damaging, the ability to heal bosses. By themselves, the bosses are powerful but often, just as they’re about to be destroyed by defenses, little minions will appear and literally run and merge into the boss to overcome your defenses. Initially, it’s strange to watch, and before you know it, your close victory will have turned into a bitter defeat. On the bright side, you can destroy these little minions before they reach the boss if you plan correctly, minimizing any regenerative powers.

As minions are destroyed, gems are earned that can be applied towards the purchase of defense units. A variety of defenses are available each upgradeable twice and thankfully, visibly transform with upgrades.

Plasma Tower—the most basic yet most effective in attacking air and ground units
Spike Tower—impales ground units
Poison Tower—slows units with a poison spore cloud
Reveal Tower—decloaks invisible enemies so they can be attacked (suggest you place this near the beginning of the path)
Venus Tower—splash damage for both ground and air units
Crystal Tower—attacks air and ground units with electricity

Visually, the attacks play out very well which is why a zoom function would have been ideal for viewing purposes.

In addition to those defenses, Moonlight Minions provides several special powers—lightning, earthquakes, meteor showers—that are unlocked based on the level of difficulty in which you successfully complete a map. By default, lightning is available by default, and upon completing certain map on the medium setting, earthquakes are unlocked specifically for that map. You’ll need to complete each map at the increased difficulty level to unlock other special powers. Once unlocked, special powers can be activated to unleash major simultaneous attacks on all minions on the screen. But use it wisely because special powers require time to recharge before they can be used again.

The gameplay is typical of TD games where you select a defense unit and place it by dragging to a specific location. Tap again to bring up sell and upgrade buttons. The storyline can be pretty sparse and only occasional cut scene with dialogue from one of the minions served as a reminder that there’s actually a story. I found the art style very appealing, if not a bit too hazy, since some of the maps do have overcast. But the in-game action delivers the intensity you would expect from this type of game. I do suggest you play the game on the medium level of difficulty since most intermediate players will find the easy setting a bit too painless. In addition to earning gems by destroying minions, random bonus gems will also appear on paths which can be acquired by tapping on them.

A fast forward button is provided as well as a tracker to show the next minions to arrive. I did find myself getting somewhat frustrated because of the inability to zoom and having to drag the screen to other parts of the map, although it’s a minor issue. Each level has a certain number of lives that can be lost. Keep in mind that the bosses will take a significant number of those lives if they make it through. You’ll want to minimize damage during the rest of the game as much as possible to provide buffer in order to complete the level.

Moonlight Minion is a refreshing addition to the TD category. While the game could build a stronger storyline in future updates with additional defense units and minions, the significant number of maps along with fun visuals should interest TD newbies and advanced players. It delivers solid entertainment, a unique group of enemies, and hours of gameplay.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (fun and refreshing addition to the TD category with specially powered minions; lack of zoom is a minor oversight considering the number of maps and visuals; gameplay is typical of games in this category)

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