SteamWorld Tower Defense
DSiWare | Image & Form | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | 500 Nintendo Points
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28th July 2010; By KnucklesSonic8
The premise of the game deals with a bit of welcome role reversal. You take the role of the Sheriff of the Cowbots, a gang of robots who are prepared to defend their precious gold mines at all costs. Rather than defending against a swarm of aliens or mechanical contraptions, you'll be fighting off against humans, people of your own kind. How's that for a twist?
There are 5 "towers" that you can place along marked areas on the map, each boasting their own strengths and weaknesses. Simply select the robot you'd like by tapping on the icon along the right sidebar, and drag it to where you'd like it to stay. You have two robots that act as turrets, a bomb-deploying device that can even damage your own units, a bartender robot that tosses alcohol-filled glass bottles to slow enemies down, and powerful sharpshooters that you can activate manually by tapping on your target.
Killing enemies will release gold, silver and bronze coins that can supply you with a nice sum of money that you can use to either purchase new robots, or upgrade the ones you already have. When a unit has been leveled-up, its military-like rank increases, up to a maximum of acquiring a gold badge. Enhancements come in the form of increased speed, power, and even range of attack. To upgrade a tower, all you need to do is tap it, select the star icon in the sidebar and if you have enough money, you'll notice the robot's rank increase. You also have the option of pressing the L or R Trigger as you drag your stylus along a series of towers, making it a lot easier for those times when every second counts.
I liked the way they depicted the enemies in this game. In an almost satirical way, the typical human units are depicted as unarmed mindless zombies, and the ones that are armed carry dynamite in their hand. And it's not uncommon for you to see a crazed human riding atop a cow. No wonder they're referred to as Hobos! Even with their lack of intelligence, though, you'll soon realize that they still prove to be formidable foes when they appear in large numbers. Things get even more challenging once the Nuke-carrying doctor arrives onto the field, or even the gun-wielding bandit who can easily ruin all of your hard work just as you think you're going to survive unscathed.
The entire structure is very familiar, with waves beginning at pre-determined intervals, with increasing intensity and force. Rounds always last a good length, not as long as Fieldrunners, but not short enough that you're feeling it was over too quickly. The layout used to oversee all the action is well-organized. In addition to the toolbar on the touch screen, you also have an overview map on the top screen which displays incoming enemies and even coins on the map that haven't been picked up. You'll also benefit from having easy-to-access info on how much money you have, your lives, and how close you are to clearing the level.
Completing stages will advance the story in the form of a blurb of text at the conclusion of a victorious match. On the Stage Selection menu, when there are two stages assigned to a page, you'll only be required to complete one in order to move on. Needless to say that in order to get the most of the game, you'll want to go back and complete every last stage. Before you make your way to the battle area, a pop-up box will appear when a level is selected, displaying how many lives you had remaining the last time you cleared the stage. You can aim for a Perfect score on all stages if you like, however you don't exactly have a fancy, visible reward to show for it.
I felt the western theme brought something to the table simply because it's something I haven't seen explored too often. Same goes with the idea of fending off humans instead of the typical units you'd come to expect. Graphics are well done, and the music is alright too, even if the game could've used more tracks to add variety. The maps you'll play on don't feel samey, nor do they always feel very linear. Some feature twists and turns that extend beyond the screen, meaning that a group of enemies can go off a path on one corner of the screen, and re-appear in another. That in itself is a nice change of pace from traditional games.
SteamWorld Tower Defense is definitely the most challenging TD game on the service yet. Even on the easiest difficulty setting, this game will have you keeping really focused on the task at hand, planning strategically during tense games. Poor sense of planning and acting slowly can really mess you up, meaning that casual players will want to stick with one of DSiWare's other offerings to get their tower defense fix. However, hardcore fans of the genre will appreciate this release a lot. It may not be really unique, but it's still good at what it offers.
24/30 - Very Good
Gameplay 8/10 - Familiar mechanics for TD fans, variety of towers including one that's manually controlled, fighting human enemies is a nice change
Presentation 9/10 - Western theme is nicely explored, nice map designs with a share of surprises, everything is well laid out, good visuals
Enjoyment 4/5 - Very challenging, all your hard work can be undermined during the last few waves, may be frustrating for rookies
Extra Content 3/5 - Could've had a stronger high score focus, doesn't offer a lot of content, more music would've added variety, a great buy for only $5
Equivalent to a score of 80% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)