What we liked:

+ Incredibly addictive
+ Fast-paced
+ Great style, à la Geometry Wars

What we didn't like:

- Precision required for tower placement can be frustrating
- Online leader boards would be nice

DEVELOPER: Critical Thought Games   |   PUBLISHER: Critical Thought Games   |   RELEASE: 03/10/2009
Wholly addictive dose of portable TD.

My love of Tower Defense might be clouding my judgment ever so slightly, but I think geoDefense is one of the best games I have played lately. Quite simply, this game makes me happy – in that slightly masochistic, TD-loving kind of way. The title, from Critical Thought Games, is currently on sale for $0.99 – and I would happily pay the regular price of $3.99 for this wholly addictive dose of portable TD.

There are thirty levels in all, each of them unlocked from the start. Early levels have a tutorial bent, as they introduce the towers and have a nice learning curve. There are three difficulties to choose from: easy, medium and hard. Additionally you can choose between novice and hardcore modes, which affects the cash flow and creep strength. The easy levels could be criticized as “too easy” for TD aficionados, but I think they do a great job of getting you familiar with the game, the towers, and enemy weaknesses. Because some will find these easy levels a breeze, it is nice that the harder difficulties are unlocked. Truth is, I have a hard time imaging this game in the hands of a novice TD gamer. If you falter, even in the easy levels, you can lose your lives quickly – too quickly perhaps for someone inexperienced with the genre to realize what has gone wrong.

Once you select a level a screen comes up with your available cash, the number of lives you have for the stage, and the nature of that level’s enemies. In the background you get a preview of the level design, and the towers you have at your disposal. You place towers by dragging the tower icon from a tray at the bottom of the screen. Your cash flow is also indicated here, making for easy buys and upgrades (which increase power and range). To upgrade (or sell) a tower, you tap the tower and choose the action. Upgrades, builds and sales occur in real time, which means you will want to have a plan going in and need make good decisions on the fly. The wave count is in the upper right while the wave advancement is tracked in the lower left with the ability to prompt the next wave with a quick tap. Remaining lives are displayed in the goal, and once you hit ten an ominous countdown is triggered.

Forming the core of the tower arsenal is a standard, cheap, blasting tower with a lower range; a laser tower that is best placed where it will have a long clear shot of enemies, a stronger missile tower that fires slowly with a wide range and an electricity tower that slows enemies but doesn’t inflict damage. The AI does have the towers tackling the lead enemy rather than picking off a severely weakened one strolling towards the goal – a commonplace TD problem, and something we should bear in mind when creating our weapons of the future. The only time this transforms from “typical” to throwing your phone across the room is when the paths have the enemies making a return pass on the opposite side of the same tower covering the entry to the level. This tower will still target the leader of the incoming wave, often ignoring the creeps approaching the goal. The most critical aspect of the game is tower placement, so much so that you even have the option of dragging the towers directly under your finger, or having them hover above. This need for precision was frustrating at times, particularly for the laser towers.

The menu is cleanly done, and the game is well-styled overall. I love the vector-based graphics – okay, so the game looks a lot like Geometry Wars and the title even plays a bit of homage to those roots; it doesn’t change the fact that the glowing, exploding art of geoDefense looks great! The grid levels are manipulated and warped with both destruction and vortex nodes, which are like black holes tied to specific towers that vacuum up the remnants of destroyed creeps. Suffice it to say, pulsating neon lines look pretty good, and when enemies die in an explosion of fireworks it makes for pretty satisfying kills. Audio in the game is strictly the sounds of battle, blips and explosions, and the voice counting down your failure as you lose your final lives. You can turn the sounds off, but they have that great old school thing going for them that I wouldn’t trade for anything. The absence of in-game music wasn’t something I noticed outright, or even something I missed, but you do have the option to play iTunes as you battle.

Your highest scores are recorded, however you can’t attach a name to the score which doesn’t make the game conducive to passing off to friend to try – though if they did top your score I suppose you could claim it as your own! A small item to be sure, but I want my name stamped on there with my score, and I want online leader boards. It is nice to either get a sense of your achievement, or be properly humbled.

GeoDefense is addictive enough to last you through long commutes and plenty of travel, and the levels move so quickly that you can easily pick it up and play through a stage or two in a few minutes – even faster if you lose. As the difficulty increases, so does the time you spend with the game, and your only problem will be that you won’t want to put it down. At the sale price of ninety-nine cents or the full-price $3.99 you more than get your money’s worth.

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