Archive for the ‘Tower Defense’ Category

One of the more underappreciated movies of the 1980s was Matinee, a film starring John Goodman that highlighted the sci-fi era of the 1950s.  While not a plot heavy by any means, the flick does a wonderful job of recreating the fun of the times, while emphasizing the power of showmanship.  The same can be said for Futuremark’s Unstoppable Gorg, a fixed path space tower defense game that captures the spirit of the sci-fi 50s with attention-grabbing newsreels while delivering an engaging gaming experience with caveats.

The scientists of Earth discover life on the unoriginally named Planet X so what do we Earthlings do?  Of course, we send out a welcome committee led by dashing Captain Adam and hubba hubba Miss Solar System Arielle.  I’m sure Donald Trump and Ryan Seacrest already have that in the works.  Low and behold, Planet X ruler King Gorg isn’t exactly in the mood for guests, and sends out an armada to destroy the solar system.

The first thing you’ll see are the great newsreel scenes which set the stage for each battle, all complete with heart racing narratives and mood setting soundtrack.  Unlike many games where the storyline sort of fades away and in some cases completely disappears, the devs do a terrific job of weaving the story throughout.

Unstoppable Gorg has 3 modes of play: Story, Challenges and Arcade.  Story mode follows a 21-chapter storyline.  Challenges offers 21 different self-contained levels each with their own number of challenging elements.  Arcade offers unlimited attack waves within different scenarios that are unlocked based on progress in Story mode.  In addition, the game offers 4 levels of difficulty: Easy, Moderate, Hard and Unstoppable.

As is typical with tower defense games, Unstoppable Gorg provides a number of defense weapons including blast cannons, missile launchers bullet spitting Vulcans.  At its foundation, the main components of your space defense are the Research Lab and the Generators.  The Generators not only provide energy, but serve as the key revenue source that can used to purchase weapons and upgrades.  On the flip side, the Research Lab allows you to earn tokens to be used for weapons upgrades during the game which will be useful as you seek to boost strength, range and damage.  Of course, units can be upgraded and sold as needed.

Of course, the Gorgs have their own set of toys launch by the Gorg Mothership.  These include the Saucer, Bomber, Abductor, and the Drone among others each specific attributes from strength to damage.  If you can’t keep all that straight, there’s a useful encyclopedia where profiles and attributes are provided.

At the beginning of each level, players are given the opportunity to select the weapons of choice and upgrade as appropriate with tokens earned.  During gameplay, medals can also be earned to maximize scores.

Investor Medal—money earned via generators and displayed on the Star Bar

Scientist Medal—upgrades earned through research labs and displayed on the Blue Bar

Defender Medal—awarded when the space station is not damaged

Engineer Medal—awarded when defenses are not damaged or are at maximum strength

Medals and tokens are all tracked within the game complemented by online leaderboards on GameCenter.

Unstoppable Gorg does deliver some fast paced gameplay as you defend the various star bases from attack.  The twist in Unstoppable Gorg is that not only do you place satellites and generators in orbit, but you can also manipulate the orbit during the game to better destroy attacking enemies.  The touch controls are pretty straightforward and work rather well.  In fact, the basics of the game are easy to learn.  Being able to rotate the orbit provides a unique challenge since this inevitably has the potential to impact other weapons that happen the share the same orbit.  It’s helpful that gas trails appear to illustrate the path of enemy attacks.

I would advise starting on Easy mode at least initially as Moderate can be quite difficult.  But, you can change level of difficulty from level to level, so the game should appeal to a broad audience regardless of experience.

Something that needs highlighting is the open slots for the placement of weapons.  Because slots are fixed although they vary from stage to stage for the placement of satellites, labs and generators, this can be viewed both as a positive and a negative part of the game.  You’re limited by the number of slots and once those slots are filled, additional defensive units can’t be built or added unless existing units are sold and then upgraded.  Revenue at that point can only be used to repair weapons.  In other words, even by earning additional money from destroying enemies or building generators, I was limited by the number of open slots.  Part of me struggled with the fact that I couldn’t simply buy and place more weapons.

On the other hand, the limited spots provide an additional layer of challenge to the gameplay which I actually liked.  The allure of tower defense games is that they combine time management with resource allocation.  Because the attack waves can come from anywhere on the screen, you do often have to plan several steps ahead.  Often, minimizing the movement of orbits will be more effective than constantly changing them as this can draw away fire power leaving you vulnerable to other attacks.

While Story mode provides an ample amount of gameplay, I think players will actually find that the Challenges offer much more enjoyment.  Here you’ll find a number of game elements that make the game more entertaining simply because they add to the difficulty.  In certain cases, you’ll find that orbits cannot be manipulated or money takes longer to generate.

Unstoppable Gorg is a great tower defense offering especially for those who enjoy the genre.  The fixed path approach is subject to individual preference, and admittedly, I do wish there was more flexibility in the number of units I could place.  Having said that, the devs have created a well-presented, nostalgic environment for those who want something different in their tower defense library.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (atmospheric space tower defense that delivers a challenging experience; fixed path along with ability to rotate orbits adds nice twist; Challenge mode is a good bonus that many will likely enjoy; newsreels and eerie soundtrack round out high-product package)

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  They could obviously say that about humor as well since I’ve had my share of jokes that have fallen flat…not many, but some.  People tend to have a love/hate relationship with tower defense games.  Maybe it’s the volume of them in the iTunes store or just the seemingly business-as-usual fare that seems to be the norm for the genre.  Whatever it is, you’ll likely end up in the love camp with Kingdom Rush, a fixed-path tower defense offering from Ironhide Games.  Equal parts of humor, fun and addictiveness, Kingdom Rush brings style to orc annihilation.

Location, location, location may be the most important things in real estate, but in the iTunes store, it’s all about presentation, presentation, presentation.  One of the things that strike you right away is the cartoony feel of the Kingdom Rush.  I’ve seen this approach in other games, but Kingdom Rush has that special intangible that should resonate with many.  In some ways, the game has an almost Monty Python-esque feel to it because of the humor and the great soundtrack.  Plus, the occasional hairy ogre, but more on that later.

The game offers 13 stages with 3 modes for each: Campaign, Heroic and Iron, and two game modes: Easy and Normal.  After you complete each stage in Campaign Mode, stars are awarded based on the number of survivors.  As you earn stars, you can go on a Castles ‘R Us shopping spree to peruse and purchase 36 upgrades to further customize your towers and defenses.  (Sorry, fins not included).  These upgrades include fire intensity, soldier toughness, artillery upgrades and precision among others.  Heroic and Iron are similar to skirmish modes where you deal with multiple attack waves or face certain defense limitations.  One nice feature is the 3 save slots so you can creatively pillage and defend to your heart’s content.

Speaking of defenses, the genre is called tower defense for a reason.  In Kingdom Rush, there are 4 tower types—Archer towers, Mages Guilds, Barracks and Artillery—along with 8 tower upgrades ranging from Barbarians and Mages to Musketeers and Rangers.  There are also 18 towers abilities that you can choose to add including Poison, Sniper Shot, and Teleport.

Of course, the big draw will be the enemies and you won’t feel shortchanged here.  There are 30 enemies that includes just about everyone from a Lord of the Rings convention.  Orcs, yetis, ogres, necromancers and demon dogs are just some of the guests attending the party.  If you have tough time keeping up with them all, Kingdom Rush includes a Baddies Encyclopedia if you will that describes the strengths and weaknesses of each monster…shoe size not included.

Something else worth mentioning are the special non-tower weapons that you have to access to for a limited time.  Reinforcements and Rain of Fire are powers with timer that appear during the course of a campaign.  During a campaign, these powers become available every 10 seconds after the last time you deployed them.  Reinforcements call up additional troops, while Rain of Fire brings, well, let’s just say an umbrella won’t help.

The gameplay is what you’d expect from a typical fixed-path tower defense game.  Along each path are spots for placing towers, and once placed, the attacks wave begin once you tap the Start Battle button.  With a colorful forest or snow-covered range as the backdrop, Kingdom Rush does a terrific job in creating a fun and engaging experience.  Really, the best part of Kingdom Rush is the visuals.  In fact, as strange as it sounds, the attacks are a joy to watch.  Whether its mages dropping magical chutzpah on crazed ogres, or troops in hand-to-hand combat with demon dogs, it’s a visual treat.  On that note, the sound effects are definitely worth mentioning.  When you activate Reinforcements for example, someone actually yells out “Reinforcements!”

Another nice touch comes when you tap on certain defenders.  A small pop-up appears at the bottom of the screen with the name of the defender and his strength.  Of course, don’t get too attached because your defender will likely get torn apart by an ogre soon enough.

The AI feels pretty balanced with waves increasing in frequency and size as you progress.  And, you can always go back and tweak the difficulty level within each campaign.  Early on, a typical campaign can take about 5 minutes to complete, but as you progress and attack waves increase, campaigns can take much longer.  I had one clock in at 25 minutes, so the omission of a fast forward button is sorely missed here.

As campaigns are completed, a map keeps track of your progress.  I did notice an occasional issue where my campaign victory wasn’t saved and I had to redo the campaign.  But, otherwise, the game ran smoothly on my iPad.

Kingdom Rush doesn’t technically bring anything new or even evolutionary to the tower defense genre.  But, Kingdom Rush does put the fun back with a creatively terrifically presented game.  Whatever style of humor, the cartoon-like characters on both sides and the balanced gameplay make Kingdom Rush a must-have for tower defense aficionados and a great experience for new ones.

Albie Meter: 5 Stars (fun, highly entertaining tower defense; plenty of levels, variety and customization; balanced AI with replay value; cartoon visuals and soundtrack should appeal to everyone)

Everyday the iTunes store delivers a plethora of games which can be daunting to comb through for novices and advanced gamers alike. One game that certainly surprised me is Wind Up Robots by Soma Games. Slickly presented, it’s a charming and wildly hectic robot defense (yes, robot defense) game that will get your gears going. Casual time waster, addicting, and entertaining come to mind, but one thing is for sure, you won’t be bored.

As with any tower defense game, the objective is fairly straightforward in that you pick your troops and weapons and deploy to defend. But, Wind Up Robots is much more creative and entertaining than that. Wind Up Robots is about Zach, a little boy haunted by nightmares. With his father off to war, Grandpa Jack is the closest thing Zach has to family. The adventure begins one night when Jack unveils his latest creations to Zach—wind up toy robots that will protect and defend at all costs.

The devs spent a good amount of effort on presentation which is obvious throughout. Wind Up Robots is rendered in high quality graphics and animation which really makes the game a pleasure to look at. From audio perspective, the tracks within each stage provide just the right balance between whimsy and intensity. It may sound like a strange combination, but it certainly adds to the experience.

This game is obviously about robots, and there it doesn’t disappoint both in presentation and in gameplay. You have 7 robots that are unlocked and stored in your Robot Locker as you progress through the rooms, each with its own unique attributes: Lamplighter, Photon, Flash, Lazer, Bubba, Scanner and Flare. Photon for example is a short range unit with a light shotgun who likes tea (kidding about the tea part). Then there’s Lamplighter who is the robot nurse if you will, just without the long legs (not kidding about the long legs). Each unit has varying degrees of range, power, health and speed.

One of the neat additions in Wind Up Robots is the Store. Ever wanted to play dress up with a robot? Me neither. But the Store actually makes it fun, and it’s also here where you can customize your robotic force. As you complete stages, coins and gears are earned that can be applied to building up your mechanical friends. For those who are impatient, there’s also IAP if you want to buy additional coins or gears. Besides the usual upgrades, the Store offers a wide array of costumes—think Robotic Salvation Army—where you can deck your little guy in everything from antlers and hats to pipes and gun holsters.

Wind Up Robots has two game modes: Story and Quick Play. Story makes up the core of the game with 28 levels that take place in various rooms in a house such as Zach’s bedroom, the backyard, and even the treehouse. As you complete levels, they unlock for access in Quick Play.

With the neat stuff packed into the game, it wouldn’t be anything without decent gameplay. Gameplay is definitely not a weakness when it comes to Wind Up Robots. The monsters are varied ranging from T-Rexes and pterodactyls to rhinos and Frankenstein creatures so you do get a good mix of them. There’s even a cow so hopefully you’re not allergic to dairy. Robots have health bars so you’ll see exactly how they’re faring, and once they start breaking down, so do their powers.

It’s downright fun and engaging, and it certainly doesn’t lack in the challenge department. The game begins when you select your robots and items/tools from the Robot Locker each of which is stored in a toy chest. From there, you simply tap to select a robot and tap in the location you want him to go with which he slowly waddles over. You’ll want to think fast because you won’t even have 5 seconds to think because the game begins quickly.

As monsters are dispatched, coins are earned which you collect by tapping. Of course, there are more than enough obstacles that impact your robotic deployment whether they be books on the bed or columns in the attic. Don’t forget to check out your Trophy Room since this is where your enemy kills are mounted. It’s a nice yet eerie touch.

The touch controls are responsive, but the one area where people may have problems will be in selecting and directing robots. Even on my iPad, the units can be small on the screen, and on occasion I would select the wrong robot. Getting them to the right location can be a little imprecise as well because of the way the screen is set up. Also, because collecting coins requires you to tap on them, I sometimes found myself tapping robots and inadvertently moving them. Still, you can change the perspective and angle by dragging around the screen, and you can pinch zoom in/out.

Another area lacking is the tutorial. Although it provides the basics of placement and general directions, it doesn’t provide much guidance in terms of using various items or powerups outside of a brief description. So many times, you’re left to experiment which I don’t have to tell you is always a dangerous thing.

Wind Up Robots may not get the recognition or buzz, but it certainly deserves it. The name may deceive you, but this is a fun and challenging game that delivers lots of content and even more entertainment. Even if you don’t buy the game because of my review, buy it because it has robots.

Albie Meter: 4.5 Stars (unique twist with robot defense that works; charming, well put together game with enough bells and whistles; concept should appeal to everyone with enough challenging gameplay for novices and gameheads alike)

The tower defense genre is among the most crowded on the iTunes platform which makes it doubly difficult both for developers to come up with something new and exciting and gamers to find the diamonds in the rough. A new entrant in the genre is Defenders of Ardania by Paradox Interactive, an iPad exclusive game of strategy set in the fantasy world of, you guessed it, Ardania. Depending on your skill level and familiarity with the genre, DoA will grab you by the sword and stab you with gusto, or it will throw a cape over your head and club you with boredom. A big selling point touted for DoA is the ability to control both offensive and defensive weapons that range from troops and towers to magic and spells. But, while DoA is a visual smorgasbord fit for a king, this kingdom’s downfall may come from an AI that in some instances could have been better.

Something that will grab you by the sword is the deep visuals of the backdrops. As you do battle across Ardania, you’ll do so in the shadows of towering castles and monuments across vast lands each with their own physical and geographic barriers. It’s obvious that the devs invested significant effort to create just the right feel and spared no expense on the eye candy. During gameplay, the animations are equally engaging without being overwhelming.

Playing as one of three races—Human, Undead, and Nature each with their own unique strengths and weaknesses, DoA provides three game modes: Campaign, Skirmish and Defend as well Multiplayer. Campaign takes you through the15-level story; Skirmish pits you against the computer; and Defend forces you to protect your base from enemy forces. Unfortunately, the game does not offer difficulty settings because this omission comes back to haunt DoA like a scorned witch but more on that later. The tutorial is pretty bare bones presented as a series of static screens that highlights the array of weapons and spells. Also, additional tutorial tips are provided as a crawler along the bottom of the screen during gameplay.

As with any TD, the objective in DoA is to defeat opposing forces while defending your own chivalrous hide. As mentioned, the big differentiator with DoA is that it goes beyond simply defending—it also allows for a strong offense where you have the ability to send troops into battle whether it’s fighting with foe thugs or conquering the opposing castle before your enemy does. The real-time strategy (RTS) element adds a bit of depth to DoA which I really like in concept. Similar to other TD games, you can place additional towers, upgrade existing ones or deploy additional troops. The magic spells are an additional element which I like primarily because of the on-screen fireworks associated with things getting blown up. And, as you defeat enemies, you earn experience which can be used to boost your defenses.

Of course, resource management is a key part of DoA since you’ll need to manage your money and resources to win the battle. Because the game only offers a basic tutorial, new gamers either to the genre or to DoA are left to figure out the nuances of the game on their own. The gameplay in DoA is similar to other tower defense games where you select towers and place them accordingly on appropriate spots on the screen. In DoA, these are represented by green and red squares (green = available; red = not available).

Unlike other TDs, no tutorial level is provided in DoA, and instead is supplemented by a tutorial crawler that provides useful tips during gameplay. The problem, however, is that I found myself not having the time nor the ability to focus on them because my attention is drawn to the battlefield. The crawler is a good idea, but just not executed very well. On that note, watching your strategy act itself out on the field of play is an exciting aspect of TD games, and you certainly do get that with DoA. On the flip side, however, the lack of a fast forward button means the game progresses slowly. Again not a deal breaker by any extent, but plan to spend some time in Ardania purgatory.

Aside from a few minor dings here and there, one issue that may have significant impact with TD aficionados is the AI, and I chalk this down to personal experience with the genre. While the AI should be challenging enough for novices, medium to advanced level players may likely find the AI seriously lacking. This goes back to the omission of difficulty settings which unfortunately makes the game a bit on the easy side. What often happens is that opposing forces didn’t respond to my tactics at least quickly enough so I found myself winning maps on my first attempt. It’s a letdown since DoA is a beautifully designed TD with plenty to offer. Don’t get me wrong, developing a well-balanced AI is no easy challenge in itself, but it has a serious effect—both positive and negative—on the player experience.

Overall, DoA is a solid TD offering with a bit of innovative thinking when it comes to allowing gamers to play both sides of strategy. The visuals set the game apart and takes advantage of real estate on the iPad. However, the AI is the chink in the DoA armor that will likely find an audience with those new to the genre, but less so with the more experienced TD gamer. At least, there’s a lite version so you can find out for yourself.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (game brings something new to the genre with some great visuals; the environment provides a good feel and delivers a strong level of engagement; minor issues abound; weak/decent AI appropriate for TD novices, not so much for advanced players)

Tower defense games have been done over and over again so it takes some innovative gameplay to rise above in this crowded category. IUGO’s Zombie Attack! Second Wave does a fairly good job as a sequel. While the maps themselves could use more variety, the gameplay itself is as solid as it was with the original. With a variety of new maps, weapons, enemies and challenges, ZA2 is one of those rarities—a solid survival TD sequel that fans of the original and those new to the series should find intensely entertaining.

Unlike the typical TD game where you simply place defenses and tap to upgrade or sell, ZA requires more of a hand’s on approach. Playing the role of zombie survivor, your objective is to protect your shack at all costs against the attacks of the undead. As enemies are destroyed, money is earned that can be used to purchase and upgrade weapons.

As in the original, ZA2 has two special gameplay elements worth noting. First involves the placement and upgrading of defenses where you must guide the survivor to locations on the maps to place and upgrade defenses. You may not think much of this, but it’s a subtle yet important difference that forces you to strategize not only in placing defenses but in the movements of the survivor. Another core element is the ability to use the survivor to lure and manipulate enemies. Because the game is in a non-fixed tower defense format, this ability can often be used to strategically set up traps or in many cases buy time to build other defenses. Depending on the enemy, the survivor can be the outright target or just bait to be used, but he’s likely to be killed if not used wisely. These two elements alone make ZA2 a worthy TD game. Of course, there is much more to the game.

ZA2 offers a good dose of gore with dismemberments, blood, and screams. The animation is smooth, and the graphics while comparable to the original, have a higher resolution. The dismemberments are particularly fun to watch since heads and limbs tend to fly in multiple directions depending on the defensive weapon used. The look of the survivor can also be changed through several costumes which tends to be on the gimmicky side and doesn’t impact gameplay.

ZA2 offers two modes of play: Survival and Challenges. In Survival, 4 maps are included: Ruined Bridge, Graveyard, Trailer Park, and Backyard. The maps in general feel similar in a drabby kind of way and could use some design touches to differentiate them, most notably color. If IUGO’s past support for its games is any indication, additional maps are likely in future updates.

Ruined Bridge—no bridge with no way out
Graveyard—typical battlefield with muddy terrain
Trailer Park—defend outhouses
Backyard—prevent the gazebo from being destroyed

Challenges offers 20 situations—5 for each map—that provides scoring targets as well as specific limitations that ratchet up in difficulty. These challenges have names such as Bubonic Plague, Asylum Breakout, Napalm Warfare and Living Nightmare. These challenges usually limit the types of weapons that can be used, provide a target score, and a unique threat for enemies such as increased speed or strength.

Panning the maps can be done by tapping the pointing hands located at the bottom of the screen, but this is a clunky set up. The game really needs swipe functionality to pan the screen. In addition, the game offers online scoring, auto save and the ability to play your own music.

The controls in ZA2 are fairly simple. Instead of dragging to place defense units, you must move the survivor to the desired location. Using the touch setting, tapping on the location will move the survivor accordingly. The tilt option allows you to move the survivor using the device’s accelerometer. Both options work well, although the tilt option feels more natural. Once the survivor moves to the desired spot, tap to select the weapon of choice. To upgrade a weapon requires moving the survivor to the specific defensive unit.

Speaking of enemies, ZA2 doesn’t disappoint with 6 types of zombies—Brute, Skinny, Winged Horror, Cheerleader, Hound, Flesh Beast—each with different attributes when it comes to health, damage, and attack.

Brute—normal hulking zombie and the most common; prime candidate for dismemberment of head and limbs
Skinny—thin and less durable zombie but a quick mover; another candidate for dismemberment of head and limbs
Winged Horror—flying Skinny zombie and not impacted by ground terrain; dismemberment in head and wings
Cheerleader—decapitated zombie that uses her head as a projectile; dismemberment of limbs
Hound—zombie dogs that instinctually go after the survivor; dismemberment of head and back legs
Flesh Beast—fat powerful zombie who locks on to the survivor; cannot be dismembered

As mentioned earlier, different enemies have different preferences for who and what they attack. For example, Brutes will target the building but can be lured by the survivor. However, Hounds will target the survivor right away so an evasive strategy will be in your best interest. Enemies, survivors and the building have health bars to monitor their survivability. Keep in mind that survivors and buildings will slowly regenerate their health while attacks are held at bay.

To fight these enemies, ZA2 has 7 types of turrets—Quakemaker, Pulsewave, Decoy, Rifle, Cannon, Flamethrower, Choppa—that deal varying levels of damage and can be upgraded up to 6 levels (level 5 and 6 are highly expensive).

Quakemaker—piston turret that slows down enemies
Pulsewave—sonic turret that permanently slows down enemies
Decoy—scarecrow turret that attracts zombies, explodes, and then rebuilds itself
Rifle—mounted rifle ideal for headshots
Cannon—rocket launcher that blows zombies to pieces
Flamethrower—flamethrower that cooks zombies
Choppa—a giant swinging axe

ZA2 offers gameplay that be intense and frustrating at the same time. Running around both to place defensive units as well as serve as bait is as fun as it sounds. The zombie hordes feel constant with very little let up and often waves overlap each other depending on how quickly the previous wave is dispatched. Often, zombies will divert from a set path and sprint towards the building. The survivor is armed with a machete that can be used for self-defense and defending the building which comes in handy especially for those unwanted zombie guests. Because of the constant flow of zombies combined with the fact that the survivor must physically place and upgrade defensive units makes this game increasingly challenging.

Some may find the movement of the survivor somewhat slow, primarily to illustrate the difficult terrain in the surrounding environment. And the space for placing defenses can feel limited. While the maps are wide open, finding suitable space can be somewhat difficult and requires some experimentation. Unlike other TD games, ZA2 does not have a zoom function, which would be a good update in the future.

All in all, Zombie Attack! Second Wave is solid and gorily entertaining game that doesn’t play like your typical TD game. IUGO has managed to create a sequel that not only builds on the original, but delivers enough to make this a worthy addition to fans and newbies alike.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (solid sequel that delivers its own entertainment value; gory graphics and smooth animation; TD that requires a different type of strategy with the ability to use the survivor as bait; only 4 maps in Survivor mode but a significant number scenarios in Challenge mode)

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)

Have you ever felt like you were running around like a headless chicken because you had to be at several places at once? That’s the exact feeling you get with Townrs Defender, a play on the castle defense concept that goes beyond just flicking your enemies away. The gameplay is challenging and entertaining, and the enemies are varied enough to keep you engaged. But it does suffer from few issues that need to be worked out including the lack of sound.

Visually, I like the look of the game where you play a lone guardian with magic powers defending the town gate. You have four towers—two upfront by the main paths and two by the town gate to aid in defenses. But, they are also weak and will fall soon enough. The terrain mostly consists of a lush forest where the guardian can easily move around. Right now, the game has one map, although the game does have 3 levels of difficulty—easy, medium and hard—that alters the game conditions and attack waves.

Easy—1 attack direction, 20 attack waves
Medium—2 attack directions, 25 attack waves
Hard—3 attack directions, 30 attack waves

Even on the easy setting, the game can difficult if you think you don’t a defense strategy in mind. The game allows you to choose either a male or female guardian, and for what it’s worth, they look like brother and sister who like to dress up in armor. The game offers a good variety of enemies which visually look good and move smoothly on my iPod Touch 2g 3.0. These enemies include Fighters, Archers, Mages and Water Knights to name a few as well bosses that resemble giant genies having a bad day in the lamp. Each of these bosses has different powers including the ability.

The lack of sound really impacts the feel especially for this type of game. The sounds of weapons fire or even running through the trees would be welcome. The devs have mentioned the addition of sound effects in an upcoming update, and it can’t come soon enough.

The default weapon is the Cyclone Shield which is a short range weapon that generates waves and storms. As you progress through several milestone levels, the Cyclone Shield also increases in its ability and power to freeze enemies in place. Additional weapons are unlocked after completing the game at the various difficulty levels. Complete the game at the easy setting, and you unlock the powerful Plague Sword which turns enemies against each other. The Meteor Wand for shooting fire is unlocked after completing the game at the medium setting.

In terms of controls, moving is done by tapping the location where you’d like to move your guardian. It’s not the most efficient control scheme and can be rather clumsy. A d-pad or virtual joystick may be a better set-up and would make maneuvering significantly easier. Controlling and leveraging the intensity or direction of a weapon is based on finger swipe gestures. For example, tapping on a specific enemy will level an attack on that sole target. To activate a directional attack, simply drag from the guardian outward to level a broader attack on multiple enemies. The deeper you get in a game will unlock two other swipe gestures that unleash other types of weapons dispersal. During the game, you slowly build experience as you survive each wave, and once enough experience is gained, points represented as stars can be applied to these different weapon skills that make them more powerful when unleashed. It’s is pretty basic in this initial release, but it’s a good start adding another layer to this game.

The gameplay in Townrs Defender can be intense since enemies will come in bunches and depending on difficulty, from different places at once. Each enemy, tower and gate will have health bars so you know exactly what’s about to give. The strategy in the game is not to defend and attack each enemy that arrives. The objective is to protect the game, and often you’ll find leading them away is your offense. Enemies will instinctively chase after you. Other times, hiding and flanking enemies is the best strategy. In other words, there isn’t a right way to defend and is only limited by your creativity and ingenuity.

Two additional elements available to you on the grounds are the Healing Fountain and the 2 Transporters. The Healing Fountain will rejuvenate and recharge your guardian’s health, while the transporters will help you get from one place to another quickly. One of things to keep in mind with weapons is that directional attacks take to time to recharge after use, and icons in the upper right corner will countdown the time until a full charge. At any time during the game as stars are earned, they can be applied to your guardian.

As long as the town gate is standing, your guardian can die uncountable times. But, there is a respawning time which temporarily inhibits you from fighting or defending and you reappear back at the Healing Fountain.

On occasion, it can be difficult to move quickly enough and avoid inadvertently activating weapons. While additional heroes and hopefully maps/layouts are planned for the future, the big issue for me is the lack of sound. I realize that is in the next update, but I can already bet that sound will add significantly to the overall feel of this game. This is a good and more or less solid game in terms of mechanics and gameplay, and sound will only make it better.

Townrs Defender is a good castle defense game that brings its own style to the table. The variety of enemies and weapons as well as difficulty levels offers a challenging and entertaining level of play. With additional content and addressing a few issues as noted, this game could really be great.

Albie Meter: 3.5 Stars (solid gameplay with plenty of variety in this initial release that will get even better with sound and even more content; basic RPG elements for now)