Tag Archives: Blue Defense!

Blue Defense: Second Wave! Review: Brilliant!

When John Kooistra proposed to create a real-time strategy title for the iPhone, I wondered why he should waste his time. I thought, “If EA cannot — with all its infinite resources — create an RTS that works on the iPhone, who does this guy think he is?” And yet he went on to create Red Conquest, one of the best RTS titles on the device. When Kooistra told me he was working on an Action RPG in which the only enemies were squares, I thought, “That can’t possibly be fun. Kooistra has lost his mind.” And yet, FASTAR! is brilliantly entertaining. And when Kooistra told me he was working on a sequel to Blue Defense — his early app store classic, and a game that was already perfect — I thought, “What’s the point? How could he possibly make a game better than the original?” Having played that sequel, however, I stand corrected.

John Kooistra is a rare developer, the sort who constantly challenges and confounds my expectations for iPhone gaming and then consistently delivers upon all of his grand promises and seemingly impossible ideas. And with Blue Defense: Second Wave! he has done so again.

A bit of history: The original Blue Defense! was released mere months after the app store’s inaugural launch and became an instant classic. At that time, few independent releases could claim such polish or vision, and fewer still were so deftly executed. While most developers were struggling with the concept of a gaming device without physical buttons, attempting to shoehorn archaic control methods into a device ill-suited to joysticks, d-pads and action buttons, Kooistra embraced the iPhone’s unique input methods — the touch-screen and the accelerometer — and produced a shooter unlike any other that had come before it. Blue Defense! was an early standard-bearer for iPhone gaming, one of the first and best embodiments of the new gaming ideologies the device would come to represent. A few months later, the 2.0 update made it all even better. Blue Defense! was — and after nearly two years still is — perfect. In truth, few of the app store’s early games have weathered so well.

And now fast-forward to present day: Enter Blue Defense: Second Wave, the more perfect sequel to a game that was already perfect to begin with. Despite there having been nothing broken or wrong with the first game, Second Wave takes all of its predecessor’s successes and improves upon them anyway.

The basic premise remains the same. The blue planet and its six-billion-plus inhabitants are under genocidal attack by alien invaders. It is your job to defend the planet against overwhelming odds by tilting your device to aim the planet’s orbital defense turret. The turret fires a continuous stream of projectiles straight up, “up” being relative to the position of your device. In the first game, that was all you could do and it was enough. For Second Wave, however, the blue planet has re-upped its defenses.

As in Blue Defense, the game perspective shifts and zooms to reveal incoming waves of invaders from all sides of your planet, and players must still juggle their devices to aim the turret at targets. In addition to your primary defense turret, however, Second Wave introduces multi-touch turrets allowing you to split your bullet stream to deploy up to ten additional turrets to target multiple invaders. The catch is that the turrets all draw from the same shared pool of energy. While a single stream fires at devastating full strength, the power of each stream is divided by the total number of turrets deployed. Therefore, two turrets will fire at half power; ten turrets will fire at one-tenth the strength of a single, consolidated bullet stream. In defending the blue planet on all sides, players must constantly be wary of spreading themselves too thin. Additional turrets may be deployed simply by dragging fingers around the screen; double-tap to lock a turret in position, and tap a locked firing reticle again to clear it.

Also new is the planetary cannon, a limited use weapon capable of ruinous attacks against the enemy. To fire the planetary cannon, touch the blue planet and drag outward in the direction you wish to fire. Players begin the game with three charges. Additional charges are awarded during the course of play, but not so frequently that players can abuse them. The planetary cannon should be used sparingly and only in times of dire need, lest the planet be left defenseless when it needs the cannon most.

Blue Defense: Second Wave also boasts more content than its predecessor; nearly four times by Kooistra’s reckoning, including 24 enemy types, 64 levels, over 200 medals to earn and four separate game modes.

Classic mode offers infinite play, always beginning with the same three levels to ease players in, then scaling in difficulty as subsequent attack waves are randomly thrown at the planet. Quick Start is another infinite play mode, but allows players to immediately jump into heavy combat by selecting their beginning wave; in this mode players can build high scores more quickly. Gauntlet mode challenges players to survive against ordered waves, and Level Select allows players to jump into individual levels to earn medals for achievements or to play their favorite waves infinitely for high scores.

Those having followed the Blue vs. Red conflict — comprising the games Blue Defense, Blue Attack and Red Conquest — will be familiar with the longstanding conflict between these races. In Second Wave, however, the forces of green also enter the fray, joining the red armada in an effort to crush the blue world. The red and green armies are distinct in their attack patterns and tactics, with red favoring all-out assault and overwhelming odds, while the green armada generally attempts to divide your attention in order to flank you, or to block your attacks while allowing attack units to slip through their defensive front-line. In other words, Red is all about brute force, while Green is all about tactics, and you — dear Blue — will be frantic trying to fend off their onslaught, constantly adjusting your defenses to deal with the ever changing threat.

As a bottom-line, Blue Defense: Second Wave is all action, all of the time. It’s a game entirely unique, without peer on the app store nor anywhere else. It’s a game genius in execution, and perfectly suited to the device on which it resides. And with so much aping occurring on the app store, it’s something of an anomaly in that it is the perfect iPhone shooter, and yet has produced no notable copycat titles; if you’re not playing Blue Defense, then you’re not playing anything even remotely similar.

As a sequel, Blue Defense: Second Wave captures everything that was great about the first game, refines it, builds upon it, ups the ante manifold. As good a game as was the first, it will be hard to go back after playing Second Wave. And as for the competition, there’s nothing out there worth a glance. If you own an iPhone, you owe it to yourself to buy this game.

Blue Defense: Second Wave! is now available in the US iTunes store for $0.99.

Blue Defense: Second Wave! is developed by John Kooistra and Cat In A Box Games. Reviewed at version 1.0 on an iPhone 4.

Blue Defense: Second Wave! Trailer and Details released

John Kooistra and Cat-in-a-Box Games have today unveiled the trailer for their upcoming game Blue Defense: Second Wave, due for release September 30.

A sequel to the original Blue Defense! — which received a Must-Have rating here on NoDpad — Blue Defense: Second Wave! brings many new gameplay elements to bear, including multi-touch targeting, new enemies and the planet cannon! See all this and more in the trailer before, and look for our review of the game when it launches later in the month. This is definitely a game to look out for; in the brief time I’ve spent with the game so far, I’ve found it to be thoroughly awesome.

Exclusive: Kooistra developing Blue Defense sequel, Red Conquest episode 3, and a new Action RPG

In an exclusive email exchange with NoDpad.com, John Kooistra — developer behind hit titles Blue Defense, Blue Attack and Red Conquest — let slip details on several upcoming projects from his development group Cat In A Box Games.

First up, Kooistra is just about ready to make a publicity push for a new title, Fastar! He describes Fastar! as “a quirky action RPG that requires you to slay your way through reams of coloured squares.” The title, Fastar, is an acronym for Fight Angry Squares: The Action RPG! The game is due to be released “soon”, and Kooistra promises screens and video even sooner.

The second bit of news is that before releasing Red Conquest Episode 3, the team first plans to release a sequel to the acclaimed Blue Defense! As one of the app store’s better early releases, the game won me over instantly and has enjoyed a permanent place on my iPhone since. According to Kooistra, the release schedule remains undetermined. “It’s not done,” he says, “but development is pretty far along and it’s a substantial improvement in many respects on top of the rock-solid foundation of the original Blue Defense,” which he admits looks “pretty old” at this point.

Kooistra says even he has a hard time keeping his hands off of the development builds, and so good things seem to be afoot at Cat In A Box Games. As fans of Kooistra’s prior work, we’ll definitely do our utmost to keep up with new details on these titles as they emerge.

The original Blue Defense! Sequel coming soon.

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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