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Review: Star Defense

2:00 PM on 06.11.2009 // Brad Nicholson

Star Defense is an appropriately titled tower defense game for the iPhone and iPod Touch. In the game -- and I hope you can read my boredom -- you build towers in order to protect a mining colony's thick steel doors.

Space miners are a worthless lot. They’re willing to hit space in search of glory and capital, but somehow forget to defend their stuff. These dudes really need to come to the realization that there is at least the possibility that they could find ancient obelisks, open gateways to hell, or, well, be attacked by alien invaders.

Anyway, hit the break for our full review of ngmoco’s Star Defense.

Star Defense (iPhone)
Seller: ngmoco
Released: May 25, 2009
MSRP: $5.99

If you’re tired of tower defense games, join my club. The membership is free. My only rule is that all my followers actively grumble about the oversaturated genre on the Internet. Actually, I take that back. My other requirement (it’s in the fine print, but I’m doing you a favor here) is that you carry my throne and scepter wherever I deem the two things need to be placed.

My point in the above mess is that I’m tired of tower defense games. The basic formula -- put tower A here, put similar tower B there, watch enemies -- can become monotonous, and (generally speaking) I don’t see developers making much of an effort to twist or tweak the genre’s conventions.

ngmoco’s tower defense title, Star Defense doesn't revitalize the genre. Hell, it only introduces one new idea. However, like a fool, I find myself buying into the genre like I did before I started my ever-growing club.

Oh, 3D maps; I hate you for making me believe again.

The goal of Star Defense is to erect towers in order to repel various alien creatures from reaching a moon base. You’ve heard it all before, and more importantly, you’ve probably done it before. But what separates Star Defense from most games of its kind are the brilliant three-dimensional maps (or planets) in the game.

Enemies in Star Defense charge down a dirt path around the game’s map. It’s mildly annoying expressing how the aliens navigate around the game's fully 3D map, so here's a couple of examples: imagine yourself flying around a planet (like Earth) or leaping around a sphere as done by Nintendo in Super Mario Galaxy.

That’s it. You got it.

So, the game has a revolutionary tower defense map. Unfortunately, Star Defense nearly throws it away by being so ordinary. The goal in the game, as usual, is to erect upgradable towers around the planet in order to defend a base on the opposite side of the alien villians’ infiltration zone. Boom. Tower defense game, confirmed.

What makes the game fun, for me at least, is navigating its awesome map while brutalizing the alien hordes. Simple flicks and brushes with your fingers will rotate the planet sideways, and pinches (including an outward one) zoom the map back and forth. It’s a welcome design choice -- a breath of fresh air, really.

Star Defense is brutally difficult. Even after seemingly mastering the map, I still found myself staring at countless Game Over screens in the game’s second level. The different kinds of enemies -- fast and slow, bullish and light -- are all weak to one of the five towers at your disposal. Relying too heavily on one kind of tower or focusing your upgrade money (earned by killing stuff) on one variety is suicide.

Still, I find myself playing this game for hours at a time. Star Defense is one of those rare games where I almost find myself unable to explain my addiction to it. I think the reason why I’m stuck on the game is a combination of the wicked awesome map, and the basic and easy-to-master, platform-perfect controls.

I don’t want to confuse you: Star Defense is totally a tower defense game, but it has its charms. If you want a high-quality tower defense game on your iPhone, I find it very hard not to recommend this ngmoco offering.

Score: 8 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.) 

Brad Nicholson,
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