Star Defense in Review – TD Given the Super Mario Galaxy Treatment

If there’s one genre of games that has gone through a gamut of change, it’s Tower Defense. Much like the variety of Super Mario Brothers games, there has been a gradual shift from 2D to 3D gameplay. Not content with just 3D graphics and gameplay, the most recent change in the Super Mario Brothers world has been the ability to fully explore a multitude of small planets in an amazing 3D experience. Star Defense represents this next stage in the evolution of TD games…one that breathes new life into a tried and true formula.

stardefense1With the thin veneer of a story (it’s more of a set-up of events), Star Defense places you at the helm of the S’rath onslaught. You are charged to keep the invasion at bay while survivors flee each world. While this may seem a bit on the pessimistic side (there’s no hope for victory… just the delaying of an inevitable defeat), the actual playing of this scenario makes for a great game.

Star Defense features:

  • Powerful Arsenal – Build your defenses from 5 tower types, that’s 15 different weapons each with unique attributes, firing ranges and reload frequencies.
  • Asynchronous Multiplayer Action – Battle friends over Twitter, Facebook and email. Search for #StarDefense on Twitter, check out other player’s scores then take them on!
  • Explore and Secure the Universe – Defend 7 breathtaking worlds, each with its own distinct path layout, weapon choices and enemy types with their own specific immunities.
  • Earn Medals and Commendations – Collect over 20 Medals and more than 30 Commendations by accomplishing specific feats on the field.
  • Breathtaking 3D Graphics – Stunning graphics and 3D worlds – this is tower defense like you’ve never seen it before!

stardefense2While some may feel that the whole 3D aspect of this game is all hype and no substance, I assure you that it is not. One thing this does is restrict your view of the battlefield. By limiting your viewing angle to approximately 1/6th of the actual battlefield, you need to be able to keep more of the world in your memory than if you were able to view all of it. Also, the enemy’s path follows the curvature of the planet, so determining the best places for the placement of the towers requires a little more thinking.

The result of this is that on later levels, you’ll find yourself rotating the planet, changing your viewing orientation, and keeping an eye out for all the invaders.

Thankfully, Star Defense makes good use of the natural touch gestures of the iPhone and iTouch. You can pinch in and out, scroll around, and even tilt. It all feels natural, and in playing the game, I’ve never once gave a second thought about the controls.

stardefense3Another innovative aspect of Star Defense is the medals and commendations section. This gives the game a sort of XBOX360/PS3 feel, and while gaining those doesn’t seem to affect the game (to my knowledge) it does add to the re-playability factor.

Unfortunately, though, besides the new twist in the gameplay and the challenges it brings, Star Defense (when compared to other great TD games) does find itself a bit lacking in certain areas.

First off, there are really only 5 weapons. Each weapon can be upgraded 3 times. While this is functional, and other TD games have done well with the same amount, the visual changes and tweaks in the power, range and speed feels a bit lackluster. There is almost a desire in me to say, “If you’re going all out with the 3D effect, then go all out with the guns and enemies as well.

stardefense4Another huge drawback is the lack of a fast-forward button. Seriously, they should make these things standard on all TD games. This issue is compounded by the fact that since the path winds around a 3D object, it is actually longer than it seems. So if you miss destroying one wave of the enemy, you have to significantly wait while the enemy makes its way across the other side of the planet.

One point of mixed contention is the multiplayer mode. In lieu of a local and global leaderboard, ngmoco and Rough Cookie have opted for Facebook/Twitter/email integration. While it may try to sell itself as a multiplayer experience, it is more like a social-network driven leaderboard. You can compete with friends to see who gets a higher score. This is all fine and good, but it is in a way just an another substitute for a leaderboard.

stardefense5With all the positives and negatives running throughout the game, it’s difficult to objectively grade Star Defense. On one hand, it is a truly innovative game that brings a new dimension to the TD genre. On the other hand, there are other TD games that are just more fun to play, but stick to the tried and true TD formula.

Yet, in the end… with so many TD games choking the market, I can easily say that there is no other TD game like this. It truly is unique in presentation and it incorporates a new concept into a tried and true genre and for that, I must give Star Defense a 4 out of 5. With a variety of tweaks and upgrades, though, Star Defense can become an amazing TD game.

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App Summary
Title:Star Defense (v1.1)Developer:ngmoco, Inc
Price:$5.99App Size:57.4 MB
  • Circumnavigate 3D Planets
  • Great 3D Graphics
  • Amazing Touch Interface
  • No True Leaderboard
  • Weapons Feel Lackluster
  • No Fast Forward Button

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