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Blue Defense! Review: This early gem hasn’t lost its sparkle

One of the iPhone’s earliest gems is still one of my personal favorites. John Kooistra’s Blue Defense! was first released to the App Store in November 2008. More than a year later and having received two sequels, the game that started it all still refuses to show its age.

In Blue Defense!, you are the planetary defense cannon tasked with defending your blue world against an endless onslaught of red attackers. The odds are against you from the start; your attackers come in droves from all sides, while you can only fire straight up. Luckily, “up” is relative. By rotating your device — often frantically — you can change “up”, effectively aiming your cannon in any direction you please. It’s a mechanic that works extremely well for the game, making brilliant use of the iPhone’s accelerometer as a primary gameplay mechanism and providing a gaming experience not dissimilar to playing a game on Nintendo’s Wii.

Also unique is the way in which the game progresses. You will begin the game with your device held in the standard vertical orientation, defending only a narrow swath of your planet’s surface. Following the first wave of attackers, the perspective zooms out, and you find yourself defending a wider area of your world. The perspective continues to pull out as you eliminate the enemy waves, and eventually changes altogether. You’ll soon flip your phone on its head to defend against attacking waves coming in from behind you, and then in a horizontal orientation to defend your sides, and eventually from all directions at once, forcing you to defend the full 360-degrees of your planetary surface.

As the swarm increases in numbers, resilience and firepower, you will find your device performing somersaults in your hands as you frantically attempt to defend the 6,000,000,000+ residents of your world from genocidal annihilation.

Likes:

Action: Blue Defense! plays like an arcade classic, the sort of game to which you might have lost a fortune in quarters back in the 1980s. It’s fast-paced, totally addictive, and offers one of the most frenetic gaming experiences on the iPhone. Of course, we’re lucky the game never hit the arcades. Just think of all the back injuries that would have ensued from having to juggle an arcade cabinet like a hot potato!

Variety: Blue Defense! includes a ton of levels, progressing in difficulty as you play but presented in a somewhat randomized fashion, ensuring that the game never plays the same twice. You’ll never quite know what wave you’ll be facing next, what enemies will comprise it or from what direction the assault will come.

Fluidity: No load times, no breaks, no hitches or hangups of any kind. Blue Defense! is nonstop action. New waves come quickly on the heels of their obliterated predecessors, and perspective shifts occur immediately to deal with incoming threats. The key to survival is most often the ability to quickly identify and deal with immediate threats, while merely managing incoming ships and projectiles from other directions until you’re better able to devote your full attention to blowing them out of your space.

Visuals: Simple neon shapes in empty space have never looked so good as they do in John Kooistra’s games. Blue Defense! is the very definition of visual simplicity, and yet manages to pop with visual style and flare. You’ll never find a more visually appealing game using only two colors.

Dislikes:

Handle with Care: Maintain a firm grasp on your device at all times. Do not play over puddles, pools or in the bathtub, nor over hard surfaces, chasms or lava pits. With your survival essentially dependent upon your own dexterity with your hands, playing Blue Defense! may put you into a situation in which you could easily drop your iPhone or iPod. I’ve never dropped my phone while playing, but I could totally see it happening. Just mind your hands while defending the world from destruction.

Blue Defense! is a game that distills the classic arcade experience to its most essential form, then places it in the palm of your hand. Though now more than a year old, I still haven’t played a single iPhone game that makes such demands upon my manual dexterity, nor that gives me the same adrenaline rush as a session of Blue Defense! Perfect for quick-play sessions, and great fun for longer periods of play, Blue Defense! is a game that no iPhone should be without.

But wait! There’s more! Blue Defense! 2.0 includes a level select mode that allows you to take on individual stages in one-off sessions to complete medal challenges. There’s also a Quick Start mode that allows you to choose your starting wave, from 1 to 100, in case you’d like to jump straight into heavier onslaughts.

For such a simple concept, Blue Defense! is a lot of game and well-worth the $0.99 price of admission. Since releasing Blue Defense!, developer John Kooistra has also released the sequels Blue Attack!, in which you take the fight back to the red home planet, and Red Conquest!, an innovative RTS game taking place in open space battlefields. Both games are worthy of their own reviews — surely to come in good time — and expand upon the glowing universe in which Blue and Red are constantly engaged in mortal struggle.

If some you’ve somehow overlooked Blue Defense!, or if you’re a new iPhone or iPod owner having not yet discovered this gem from the App Store’s past, do yourself a favor and pick it up.

musthave

Blue Defense! is developed by John Kooistra, and costs $0.99. Reviewed on an iPhone 3G.

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