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Fieldrunners - DSiWare Review

Game Info

DSiWare | Subatomic Studios | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | 800 Nintendo Points
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16th May 2010; By KnucklesSonic8

When Subatomic Studios revealed that their award-winning game was heading to DSiWare, I was rather excited. Although I had never played it before on mobile platforms, I eagerly looked forward to giving it a try being the TD fan that I am. As it turns out, not only is Fieldrunners an excellent addition to the DSiWare platform, but it's also one of the strongest of its kind.

    In each level, you'll be tasked with fending off a formidable task force bent on getting past your traps to reach openings in the battlefield. The AI is programmed to exit the area at the opening straight ahead of wherever they came out from. Almost all levels start off with an open field, and it's up to you to place towers down to stop the enemy from advancing. There are multiple enemy units, including single units, helicopters, strong motorcycle riders, and even giant blimps. And for each enemy you beat, you'll get a certain amount of money added to your wallet. Can you survive a barrage of attacks for 100 rounds? You only have 20 lives which doesn't exactly leave a lot of room for error. If you plan wisely from the start, then you won't have to worry about messing yourself up later on!

    In Classic Mode, you'll make use of four different items to help your cause: a turret, a missile launcher, a goo machine, and electricity towers. Each of these cost different prices, and have their own attributes. For example, turrets are the cheapest of the four but they also have a very limited range and firepower, while missile launchers cause splash damage and have a large attack range. Each of the icons in the bottom-right corner of the touch screen correspond to one of these towers and the differences between them all is pretty clear. When you drag off one of these icons, you'll bring an outline of the tower onto the playing field. Once you've decided where you'd like to place it, you simply release the stylus and you'll be all set to go. 

Tapping on constructed towers will show you their attack range by means of a green circle, along with two other menu options. Choosing the money sign will let you sell the tower back to your inventory for money, while the arrow sign will allow you to level-up the tower with adequate funds. When you do, not only do stats improve, but the appearance of the towers change as well. Each tower can go up to a Level 3 upgrade before they're at their maximum capacity. It's up to you to evaluate the situation regularly to determine when's the right time to spend money on a new tower or improve the ones you already have. But don't worry, if you need to just stop and think for a moment, you can press the Pause button in the bottom-left hand corner of the screen to freeze gameplay temporarily.

    The coolest part about the game is that players are able to create their own pathways and place obstacles the way they want. You have the job of placing traps where you think you'll gain the most advantage over the enemies, and over time, you'll begin to develop a complete maze leading off to each of the openings at the borders of the level. If you plan carefully, you can make the enemies take a really long journey towards their goal, but in so doing, you may cause another set of enemies to get to their destination faster. There are multiple environments each with their own differences. Some stages feature as many as four openings so if you don't think ahead of time, you may be in trouble later on. It's such a great concept and it's something I've never seen before in a TD game, and for that reason alone, Fieldrunners can be described as a very unique game.

    There's definitely a sense of organization to the layout of the whole game. The top screen displayers pertinent info such as the current Round number, the amount of money in your possession, a preview of upcoming threats, as well as a section where you can view level-up possibilities for towers that you've selected. The touch screen is where all the action takes place, and depending on your style, you can set the camera to an overview of the entire stage, or zoom in closer for more precision. The icons that pop up on the touch screen are quite user-friendly and they definitely feel distinct enough for you to tell one option from the other. Overall, the visuals look pretty good, albeit some aspects look a bit rough. The music in the game is also well done, capturing the constant battling that you're exposed to as you play.

Fieldrunners can get really addicting, especially for hardcore fans of this genre. Don't be surprised to find time go by really fast while you play, all the while you're being challenged by swarms of enemies. Whether you think you're the best or just a beginner at the game, you can select multiple difficulty settings to tailor your experience to your style. Clearing all 100 rounds in a level can take longer than 30 minutes, and sometimes you just don't have that kind of time. Thankfully, you can stop the game at any time, save your progress, and come back later. This is an excellent feature as it makes the game feel more of a pick-up-and-play experience. 

    At the start, only the Grasslands level is available, but if you make it to Round 50, you'll unlock the ability to play on a new map. Going through all rounds is pretty lengthy, but just when you start to feel a bit tired, you'll unlock the Fast Forward option upon reaching Round 75. This speeds up gameplay, perfect for those times when you're feeling confident in your setup and just want to pick up the pace. If you manage to clear Classic Mode entirely, you'll unlock two new modes for the map you cleared it on: Endless and Extended Mode. Endless mode is exactly how it sounds, where you play until you lose all your lives. In Extended mode, you'll get to use two new towers to fend off evil for another 100 rounds.

If the game sounds lengthy to you, that's because it is. And yet, it's something you can always come back to even after you complete the game. There's a lot more strategy involved here than there is in other games of this genre. The ability to construct your own pathways (see: maze) to form a solid defense is a feeling unlike any other TD game I've ever played before. As a result, the game is different every time you play and that's not something a lot of games can boast. Plus, high-scores offer much in the form of replayability. Although you may not be able to compare your scores online, people like myself who are big on replay value will definitely see a lot of value in trying to best your times, or those of a friend.

    Fieldrunners is the perfect DSiWare game to satisfy hardcore TD fans. This is a platform that's well-suited to games like this and Fieldrunners is a great example of the kind of experiences that can be enjoyed through this venue. It does away with linear direction and structure in lieu of something that allows players more freedom and opportunities for strategy and experimentation. The addicting and unique gameplay makes this one of the best tower defense games I've played in recent memory, putting it right up there with games like Swords & Soldiers, Crystal Defenders, and Starship Defense.

27/30 - Excellent

Gameplay 9/10 - Fantastic approach towards strategy, allows players a great deal of freedom, can take a different approach each time you play
Presentation 8/10 - Setup is quite user-friendly, some areas look a bit rough, nice layout, distinguishable character models and menu icons
Enjoyment 4/5 - Challenging and very balanced, rarely experience moments of frustration, classic tower defense, might be a bit too lengthy for some
Extra Content 5/5 - A few maps to play through, compare stats with other save files, multiple modes to unlock, high-scores offer great replay value

Equivalent to a score of 90% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

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Review by KnucklesSonic8

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