Tag Archives: Tower Defense

Dungeon Defenders Review: It’s Time for War

Dungeon Defenders, when the trailer was released, looked as if it was going to be one of the best-looking games on the iPhone.  It looked like a huge plus for the Unreal Engine or whatever that fancy graphics engine is called.

And while the graphics aren’t as glass-shattering as the trailer supposes—yes, they’re not that good—the gameplay is actually not too shabby.

Dungeon Defenders pits you as four Hero classes, with each corresponding to the difficulty levels easy, novice, medium, and hard.  Once you choose a Hero, you’ll be confronted with a seemingly endless tutorial, and once you start, you go through a number of waves before reaching the next map.

There’s a good number of towers and variety, and I don’t have too much flak to say about it.


Gameplay: The gameplay is actually quite enjoyable.  Setting up towers, walking around and shooting the baddies… it’s all in good fun.  If you’re looking for something to play for fun and fun only, definitely give Dungeon Defenders a shot.  Because, like I said many times now, it’s fun.

Depth: You’re not going to get Aralon-esque depth here.  But you are going to get a considerable level of depth, with what towers to put, what stats to raise for your hero, where to place your towers, which weapon to use, etc.  There are so many factors that play into the game that it’s actually one of the deepest tower defense games that I have ever played on the App Store.  And that’s saying a lot, as there are some deep tower defense games on the App Store.

GameCenter/Universal: Anytime a game is universal and sports GameCenter, I’m all for it.  Can’t go wrong here.


Controls: Now I’m going to stray from our traditional review format and add a little neutral part here, since a lot of people are complaining about the controls and how cramped the game is on the iPhone.  And for me personally, the controls aren’t that bad.  Now mind you, they’re far from great and could use some improvement, but it’s nothing you can’t handle.  The interface is crowded, but again, nothing you can’t handle.  It’s really not all that bad, but it could be improved.


Built for iPhone: Now that we’ve got the control and interface down, the other parts are what make this game feel more for another platform.  First off, you can’t play your iPod music.  That’s a big no-no for me, since I’m always listening to my own music while playing games.  One minute I’m listening to Kings of Leon, the next I’m listening to the Dungeon Defender soundtrack.  Sure it’s not a bad soundtrack, but let me listen to my own.

Along with that, the UI seems to be a little sluggish, and whenever I tap a button you do notice a slight delay.  During the game, the moving of the camera could also be improved, as the small left and right arrows really don’t cut it.

Graphics: I thought these graphics would be absolutely epic, but quite frankly, it isn’t what the trailer showed.  They’re quite dull with little flashes of color here and there, and it definitely went below expectations.

Online multiplayer: Online multiplayer right now seems to be chaos, with no real matchmaking and such.  You’re in a group with players that are a lot higher than you in terms of level, and they’re the ones that are usually claiming all the kills.  There’s just something wrong with the whole balancing, on top of the fact that it’s laggy.

Dungeon Defenders has potential, and it’s a really fun game; there’s absolutely no doubt about that.  But I would love to see an improved interface and controls—mind you, they’re not bad, but not good either—along with some better graphics.  It also really needs to feel like it was built for the iPhone, not just a game that wants to appear on as many consoles as fast as possible.

Dungeon Defenders was developed by Trendy Entertainment, and I played through version 1.0 on my iPhone 4.  The price is $2.99.

Sentinel 3: Homeworld Review: Oddly Familiar…

Sentinel has arguably been one of the best tower defense games since the first one was released, hot off the whole Fieldrunners hype and the explosion of the tower defense genre on the App Store.  I’ve generally had a lot of fun with a lot of tower defense games out there: Fieldrunners, Bloons TD, and Elemental Monsters TD to name a few.

And the premise of Sentinel 3 is oddly familiar, except this time you’re on the alien’s homeworld and invading their territory (before it was the aliens invading Earth, prior to that Mars).  This version of Sentinel has, by far, the most content available with 20 maps, along with a new, powerful commander you level up during the process.

Along with that, instead of receiving all the turrets at the beginning, you slowly receive more types of turrets as you progress through the campaign.  You also need to purchase a turret slot before being able to “equip” the turret for your battle, which may sometimes require you to play levels over again just to be able to equip another turret.

And while that sounds all fine and dandy, I honestly don’t see many differences between Sentinel 2 and Sentinel 3.  Sure, they’ve added a commander, but that doesn’t really add a lot to the strategy.  If you keep the commander healthy and have it guard the gates, you should be more than fine.  It doesn’t require a genius to have the commander stay in one place and level up its stats accordingly.

Also from my extensive hands-on time with the game, I haven’t seen any new enemy types.  There may be one boss that I haven’t seen in the previous Sentinel, but other than that, everything else is the same.

One of my major gripes with Sentinel 3—actually all of them—is the fact that the screen becomes pixelated once you zoom in.  It also makes me not want to zoom in, but when you zoom out all the way to full-res, the towers become too small to accurately upgrade and such.

But one of the major pluses for the game is still intact which is the game balancing; tower defense newbies should be able to get past through a lot of levels while tower defense gurus should be faced with huge challenges when it comes to the Psycho mode.  The revamped musical score is also quite refreshing and one that I absolutely love.

But other than that, there’s really nothing too new about this one.


Musical score: I have to hand it to Origin8 for improving their soundtrack and producing one of the better-sounding tracks on the App Store.  I, personally, really enjoy the background music added in Sentinel 3 and MUST give props to Origin8 for their music.

Balance: This is one aspect that Sentinel tower defense games boast, and I’m glad they didn’t mess it up here.  There’s more than enough difficulty levels in this game for anyone to be able to pick it up and cruise through a couple of levels.

Commander: While the Commander quite frankly doesn’t add much to the gameplay, it’s a welcome addition.  It does kill off those last minute enemies that your turrets can’t quite reach, and leveling it up does add a sort of RPG aspect to the game.  You also might have the itch to level up the Commander to unlock abilities—it has six—that are able to do things from healing the barrier to shooting some extra guns.


Nothing really new: I honestly don’t see much change in the game.  Not that Sentinel 2 really needed a lot of change but hey, it would be nice to put in a little imagination to add some new features or something amazingly cool like online multiplayer.  It really doesn’t feel like a sequel as of now; something more along the lines of an expansion pack.  They even “forgot” to add new enemies if I’m not mistaken, and the new maps aren’t all that groundbreaking or “new”.

Zoom in: I don’t know why Origin8 continues to pixelate the artwork once you zoom in.  Retina graphics my butt.  It’s been nearly a year and a half, probably more, since the first Sentinel was released.  You would think that they would have fixed this problem right now, but alas, even in their third installation of the Sentinel series, they fail to improve.

I’m more upset about their lack of improvement than the game itself.  The game is fine, it’s just that faithful Sentinel fans will find this new sequel to be a little lacking.  They’ve really only added a Commander, and they still have decided to keep the artwork pixelated when zoomed in.  And at $3.99, I’m honestly going to suggest you to pick up Sentinel 2 instead—$0.99, and basically the same thing.  I didn’t even include the fact that Sentinel 2 is a year older.  Bottom line is, there’s little to no improvement.

Sentinel 3: Homeworld was developed by Origin8, and I played through version 1.0 on my iPhone 4.  The price is $3.99.

LotR Middle-earth Defense Review: A game deserving the wrath of Mordor

A thoroughly mediocre tower defense game wearing the thinnest veneer of a beloved intellectual property for the sake of retail markup, Lord of the Rings: Middle-earth Defense is a game which ought to be thrown into the molten bowels of Mordor.

LotR:MeD comes in two miserable flavors, a $6.99 iPhone version and a $9.99 HD version for the iPad. In either case, you’re paying a premium price for the license only, because the underlying game is just wretched.

The game takes all of the epic encounters from the film trilogy, and pulls them down to a sluggish pace for the sake of creating a plodding, uninspired tower defense game. And as if the gameplay weren’t bad enough, the game is just plain ugly to look at.


LotR: I love Lord of the Rings. I love the books, and I love the films. I even love the games. Just not this one.

Heroes: The game allows you to place the story’s heroes — Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, the hobbits and others — has towers on the field. Using gold acquired in combat, you can level-up their attack strength, range, speed and special skills. These aspects of the game are actually pretty cool, but a sad case of good ideas buried in a poor game.


Graphics: Environments comprised of muddy textures, blocky and poorly animated character models, cheesy interface components and ugly text windows make the game an eyesore to behold. Even the typography is bad. To claim this game is HD is a bad joke, and I’m sure Glu will be laughing their way to the bank.

Pacing: There’s an option to run the stages at double-speed, but even that seems far too slow. I keep drifting off while playing the game, having to wrench my attention back to the screen to initiate the next wave of attack. The fact that the game can’t even hold my attention from one wave to the next is surely a bad sign. Eventually the game becomes difficult, but it never gets good.

Stage Design: Stages are not only muddy and ugly, but also poorly designed from the standpoint of interesting gameplay. Each stage consists of various paths along which the forces of Mordor may march. The game very clearly shows you the path enemies will follow. You can erect barriers to divert their progress along different paths, but the game only allows you very limited influence over their path. Likewise, friendly units may only be placed at specified points on the map were nodes indicate a defensible position. Everything seems to play out in a very by-the-numbers fashion, and players are provided much less control and far fewer strategic options than in other tower defense games. LotR:MeD really seems as if the developers mean for stages to be completed in only one way.

At time of this writing, LotR:MeD enjoys a solid four-star rating on the app store, but you and I know there are fanboys out there who will rate it highly based solely on the property. Truth be told, Lord of the Rings: Middle-earth Defense is both the worst LotR game and one of the worst tower defense games I have ever played. And were it not for the LotR license being attached, I’m certain most gamers would pass it by without a second thought.

For fans of the story who simply must have it all, nothing I write here will prevent you buying it. But for anyone else, I strongly advise steering clear of this. There are a thousand tower defense games in the app store more worthy of your time and money, offering both a better experience and a better bargain. Play one of them instead.

Lord of the Rings: Middle-earth Defense is developed by Glu Games, and available for $6.99 or $9.99 HD. Reviewed on an iPhone 4 and iPad.

Monster Mayhem Review: It’s Madness I Tell You! Madness!!

Sick of tower defense games yet? We all are. With the constant influx of tower defense games on the app store it’s no wonder we’re all starting to wear a little thin on the genre. Being such a new game style it’s a shame that it’s burning out so fast.  Fortunately, amidst all of the “me too”s there are the occasional games that manage to stand out and remind us why the genre became so popular in the first place.  Monster Mayhem by Taplay manages to shine as one such example in this vast sea of uninspired games.


Monster Cards: The bestiary is fantastic. Every time a new monster shows up on the field you are shown a card giving basic information about the new monster. Each monster has its own chuckle-worthy name that will often bring a smile to your face.

Variety of Monsters: Every enemy wave feels distinct and the amount of monsters in each wave ramps up very quickly. Some monsters are immune or take very little damage to certain attacks, while others absorb damage and send take it directly off your gate hp.  This really forces the player to adapt to each enemy and treat them differently. Very nice mix up.

Bosses: Boss fights are a great challenge and very satisfying.  Each boss has a set attack pattern that must be figured out in order to defeat them.  It’s a nice break from the more mindless slashing and shooting found in the rest of the game.

Art Style: Following the same gorgeous art style from their previous game, Taplay has again chosen the cartoonish style that they clearly excel at drawing.  Someone needs to get their artist to draw a Saturday morning cartoon show.  Seriously.

Sound: The sound effects are great. From the gate closing at the start of play to the individual death groans of fallen enemies there’s a wide variety of crisp sounds to be heard.

The music is a little bit of a mixed bag.  The menu music has a spooky and epic vibe to it.  However, the stage music is nice, but could use a bit more variety to it. The boss fight music is probably not intense enough as well, but at least it mixes things up a little.

Continuity Nods: If you’ve played Taplay’s previous game you will no doubt notice there are some monsters that are taken right out of their previous effort.  This rewards fans with a little smile when they recognize these cool characters and leaves newcomers potentially questioning why they are in the game as they definitely feel a little out of place without the context.  If you are confused why there is a 3 colored block monster or a guy in a radiation suit I highly recommend you check out their first iDevice game Virus Laboratory.  I have high hopes that this trend will continue in all their future games as it adds an incentive to play all their previous games by rewarding players with “hey I remember that from another game” moments that really adds an extra layer of enjoyment to the experience.


Difficulty: This game is an insane challenge for certain. Easy mode is by no means easy and will challenge even skilled players.  I found the difficulty very enjoyable, but if you’re hoping for a cake-walk on easy mode think again.

Swipe Fest: Perhaps it’s just my style, but I found that I spent a vast majority of each play session with the knife since ammo seems to run very low very fast (and it’s a bit expensive to resupply).  This unfortunately means the game usually very quickly devolves into a frantic swipe-fest to survive the onslaught of enemies.

The recent update is a reasonable attempt to alleviate this problem. The new knife swipe adds a new one as your finger drags out of the range of the initial swipe. Rather than hitting multiple enemies that bunch up as they often do, you now can drag your finger across the entire screen and it will add new swipes automatically.  While this is certainly an improvement that saves a ton of finger lifting, it doesn’t solve the issue when multiple enemies bunch up at your gate. They still must be hit individually by a swipe. One swipe, one enemy. That’s still going to take a bit of work.

Despite its very minor flaws, Monster Mayhem is one of the best tower defense games produced to date. It’s nice to see that there are still some developers trying to stand out by producing highly polished nearly perfect games within this tired genre since innovation appears to be in a bit of a stand-still.  Don’t miss this one, it’s a great reminder of why the genre exploded in the first place.

Monster Mayhem was developed by Taplay and published by Chillingo, and I played through version 1.0.1 of the game on my iPod Touch 3G (OS 3.1.2).  The current price point of the game is $1.99.

BioDefense Review: A change to the Zombie Apocalypse

The zombie apocalypse is a funny theme, as so many people attempt to tell the story their way via video game.  There’s the cartoon, run at your house, and you flick them away; there’s the zombies-breaking-through-your-house-and-you-have-shoot-them-down zombie apocalypse story, along with many more that are too long to cover.

So what’s BioDefense all about?  Well, for one, it’s all about survival (this seems to be a recurring theme).  But in this case, they’re trying to attack your energy plant, and you must set up towers and energy towers to defend your plant as long as possible.  It’s okay though, you don’t need to panic; there are machine guns and rocket launchers available at your fingertips, so fighting off these zombies would be easy, right?

You’re about to find out.


Go as long as possible: BioDefense has this tendency to push you to play as long as possible in one sitting, and one game of the survival mode cost me 25 minutes of my precious time.  But during that time, you’re totally sucked into the game, and you’re not thinking of anything else but defeating these pesky zombies.

Deep metal riffs: The background music is well-composed, and while it does get repetitive after listening to it for 15 minutes, it’s still very well done.  For first-timers, this soundtrack will help you to immerse into the gameplay.


Repetitive: As much as I hate to break it to you, this does seem to get a tad bit repetitive after playing for 20 minutes or so.  Tower defense (in this case a mix with real-time strategy) usually has me play for hours on end; this one had me quit after 20 minutes or so of play.  And after playing for 20 minutes, I had the feeling of, “I want to move on, I don’t want to play this anymore.”

The arsenal: Weaponry consists of a rocket launcher and a machine gun.  That’s it, no unlockables, nothing else.  I wish they would have added some more, including the slower-downers (you know, the ice machines) and some other type of tower I can’t think of at the moment.  But seriously, two types of weapons won’t get you through the zombie apocalypse for long.

BioDefense is fun your first time through, but after that, it’s hard to get back into the game again.  It’s definitely repetitive, as there isn’t much variety within the missions, and there doesn’t seem to be any unlockable items (except for the achievements, of course).  While I had an enjoyable time unlocking some of the achievements, I still think there should be something more added to this tower defense/RTS game.  For now, I’d say it’s worth a look, but this is a game that has the potential to be great.

BioDefense was developed by Resolution Interactive AB, and I played through version 1.0 on my iPhone 3GS.  The price is $2.99, and there is a lite version available.