This review is based on the iPhone version of Star Defense.
Tower defense games are…a bit weird. I don’t know when the concept of shooting down waves of enemies along a path with a variety of towers started, but it certainly exploded in popularity once WarCraft III’s mod creation community started pumping out an endless variety of tower defense scenarios and levels online.
It’s a type of game that carries over pretty naturally to a portable platform, and I’ve certainly sunk enough time into Star Defense. Developed by Rough Cookie and published by ngmoco, the game sticks with the tried and true standards of tower defense titles. There are rapid fire, flame, slow, area of effect and top firepower towers which can each be upgraded twice to improve damage, firing speed and range. You can also sell them to recoup some of your funds, which becomes necessary on the higher levels to take down some of the tougher enemies. Your opponents are aided by the occasional resistance to your towers to prevent stacking of only your preferred weapon of choice, so mixing it up is a must. You deploy towers by dragging and dropping from the right sidebar, and upgrade or sell them by clicking on an individual item; it usually works smoothly, but the occasional burst of lag will throw off your deployments.
The levels are designed in a variety of spherical and cube worlds that you rotate with a click and drag of your finger, and you can zoom in or out to get the perspective that works for you. Each of the 7 levels has a different path flow, which makes adapting your tower stacks and effect combinations a must.
It’s all bound together by the deep plus+ system, and Star Defense has more achievements than most titles for the stat obsessed. Billed as commendations, the achievements reward level completions, tower upgrades and cumulative enemy destruction for a huge amount of time; I’ve put in at least 20 hours over the last few months, and there’s still about a dozen that elude my grasp.
There’s no online play, but tower defense doesn’t lend itself well to a competitive style anyways. The graphics look nice, but the iPhone struggles when a lot of enemies are marching through your level. The soundtrack and sound effects are both limited and plain, but you won’t notice when frantically deploying towers to stave off elimination.
If you’re on the fence, Star Defense: Prelude is a demo that Rough Cookie and ngmoco have recently released for free. It also has achievements/commendations for the collecting minded, so even gamers who have splurged on the full title may want to check out the new release for a bit.
What hurts the game most is a tendency to crash. The long load times when resuming a game session are understandable due to the large number of towers and enemies to render, but losing a game with a lot of progress made and/or near completion can be infuriating. Unfortunately, none of the patches released so far have been able to eliminate or even reduce the frequency this problem.
Star Defense doesn’t do anything spectacular, but its level design and tower assortment are both pretty solid. It’s one of those games that you’ll occasionally log some time with on a regular basis, until you realize that it’s provided you with lots of hours of fun.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars