Tower Defense: Lost Earth Review (iOS / Android)

Tower Defense is a popular app genre on the mobile platform, and for good reason – quick games with a lot of depth and strategy are a great platform for a game to go. A lot of the TD games available now are a simple variation on the basic formula, offering a different theme on a typically identical system. So it’s always worth mentioning when something comes along that shakes things up and introduces us to a new gameplay style. Tower Defense: Lost Earth, from com2us, is just such a game, bringing beautiful graphics and a whole slew of enemies and towers to combat them with. Is this enough to make a great game, or does it simply complicate things?

To answer that question, let’s take a look at the basics that Lost Earth brings to the table. The basic gameplay is there – you have waves of enemies trying to move on your base structure and destroy it, and you can purchase stationary defense towers to repel them. Killing enemies awards you with credits with which you can buy more towers or upgrade the ones you have, making them stronger.

However, Lost Earth isn’t content to rest on the genre’s laurels, and what’s been mentioned so far is just about all it has in common with every other game in the Tower Defense category.

For starters, the game has a great selection of game modes to try. There’s a full-featured campaign, spanning 40 levels and actually featuring some semblance of a story. In the future, Earth’s natural resources are dwindling close to nothing, and you are part of an exploration team sent to examine and colonize a new planet. However, this entails establishing bases across the planet’s surface and fending off the natural wildlife with – what else – towers. The campaign does a great job of showing you the ropes, teaching you something new every step of the way while avoiding the feeling of hand-holding. The gradual unlocking of additional tower types also keeps the entire campaign feeling fresh, and it never drags.

Unlike many other TD games available, there’s multiple ways for you to approach combat besides simply planting towers. Tapping on an enemy will have your towers focus on it; this is a great way to target down bigger, tougher enemies, and there are even some enemies that require this tactic, as towers won’t automatically fire on them. Most stages also include a super weapon you’re able to deploy once per mission. These weapons are usually tuned to the stage they’re on, such as a nuke for tightly-winding paths or carpet bombs for eradicating a group of enemies on a longer path. Used wisely, these weapons can turn the tide of a near-defeat.

There’s still plenty to do once you beat the Campaign. For starters, Challenge mode lets you compete on seven unique levels with the world, vying for the top spot on the global leaderboards. These levels are a cut above the Campaign in difficulty, and will definitely test your expertise with your full assortment of towers, as well as manipulating enemy movement with intelligent placement of your towers. Similar to Challenge mode is a selection of Special Missions that also support Leaderboards. There’s only two stages at time of writing, but more may be added later via in-app purchases.

TD:LE does a great job of showcasing the graphical power of mobile devices. The game’s graphics are all 2D sprites, but boast an incredible level of detail and some present the illusion of depth. Towers and enemies look unique and animate fluidly. Towers and special weapons unleash their firepower with spectacular intensity. All in all, Lost Earth is a treat to the eyes. However, its audio doesn’t quite live up to the same standard. The firing sound of each tower is appropriate to its level of power, and the main menu music is fantastically catchy, but otherwise, there isn’t much to speak of. The sound lacks punch, and enemies make generic snarling noises when defeated. The sound in-game serves a more functional role rather than contributing to the game’s aesthetic; if you don’t hear anything, it means nothing is happening. Otherwise, if a tower is firing, an enemy is dying, your base is getting destroyed, or a super weapon is inbound, you’ll know it.

Kudos to com2us for giving the game a semblance of a story and some great attention to detail.

Tower Defense: Lost Earth is an excellent example of where the Tower Defense genre can go. By taking the gameplay beyond the basic formula, Lost Earth injects a much-needed breath of fresh air into a genre generally lousy with carbon copies. With a generous campaign and loads of challenges to take on, Lost Earth is one of the best values you’ll find on the App Store or Google Play today.

FINAL SCORE: 8.5 / 10 = BUY IT!

Punch Quest Review (iOS / Android)

There’s a few household names in the mobile gaming market that have come out over the past few years – Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Jetpack Joyride, Monster Dash – most of these titles are instantly recognizable by anyone with a handheld device or smart phone. Whether it’s a certain aesthetic, a catchy game mechanic, or just that special something, these games have become hugely successful, and are invariably going to set standards in their genres. At face value, Rocketcat Games’ and Madgarden’s Punch Quest could appear to be based on many popular mechanics, like Monster Dash’s run-and-gun style of gameplay. However, after just a few minutes with the game, it’ll be plainly obvious that Punch Quest is a unique, innovative, and downright addicting game that’ll be more than just a passing entry on the Top 25 list.

The concept behind Punch Quest is pretty simple, and at its core not that new – you play as a muscle-bound Punchzerker on a VERY bad day. After busting through a castle door, your punching spree begins. Your character runs forward constantly, so all you need to worry about is how to pummel your opponents. This is done in two ways: a straight Dash Punch which can be mashed to increase your speed, and an uppercut / overhead smash combo that lets you soar into the air to deal with aerial threats or lay the smack down on your enemies’ heads. It’s a simple system on the surface but boasts surprising depth once you get to try it out. And you get plenty of opportunities to use your fighting skills, as just about everything can be punched – skeletons, zombies, orcs, bats, wraiths, torches, chests, vases, idols, and even food can be bashed around, among other surprises. Chaining strikes together and juggling enemies increases your combo, which is the key to racking up huge score combos. There’s a ton of surprises to be had too – branching paths, special mini-games with laser-shooting raptors, boss fights, traps, treasure troves, and more.

When the going gets tough, the tough punch things. A lot.

As you accumulate experience by pummeling enemies, a power meter on-screen will fill. As it reaches three milestones, you’ll unlock two Skills and a Super Move, in that order. These Skills passively enhance your skills, like making your uppercuts jump higher or improving damage of overhead slams, or give you entirely new moves to perform, like a block that reflects projectiles back at the attacker. Super Moves make you significantly more dangerous for a limited time and are potentially very over-the-top. Make your punches more damaging, literally throw punches, or even make defeated enemies explode. More and tougher enemies will start appearing as you gain experience, upping the challenge but also increasing the potential reward. Punching anything – enemies or otherwise – earns you Punchos, the game’s currency, which can be used to purchase a whole slew of upgrades and customization options. There’s a ton of stuff to purchase, so the game will keep you coming back again and again to grab as much as you can. There’s even achievements to be had on iOS for the completionist.

Punch Quest strikes a perfect middle-ground between the new and the old with its art and sound aesthetic, sporting an 8-bit visual and audio design highlighted by scintillating special effects and brass horn highlights. The game looks retro yet modern, sounds old-school yet delightful, and strikes every point just right. Anyone who’s played Final Fight, Streets of Rage, Street Fighter, or pretty much any old-school brawler will feel a sense of nostalgia from the get-go. The game can even be played in portrait or landscape perspective, and plays quite well in both, so it’s up to user preference which way to handle your device during play. Most importantly, though, the game has a unique charm that goes beyond the looks – the game’s quirky sense of humor is clever and cute, and despite being a somewhat inherently violent game, it’s got something for just about anyone, from the young to the not so much.

Need we say more?

Perhaps best of all, the game boasts a very consumer-friendly pricing model. The game itself is free, and Punchos are easy enough to come by through gameplay alone that most won’t feel the need to fork over real money to get some. The option is there, as well as a permanent upgrade that doubles all Punchos earned (not bought). It’s publically-known that Punch Quest isn’t earning Rocketcat a ton of revenue, but this leaves an interesting pivot point for players – the option of buying in-app content is more of a donation to the developers. Given the love and care Rocketcat has clearly put into Punch Quest, it’s a nice and very deserving gesture.

It’s very hard to find faults with Punch Quest because it’s a game that does so many things right – simple but engrossing gameplay with that “just one more” factor, an endearing and vivid aesthetic, tons of hooks and replayability, and best of all, provides the entire package in a no-strings-attached business model. If you enjoy the game (and you should – a lot), by all means, support the developer and make an in-app purchase! They’ve earned it, at least in this reviewer’s opinion. Punch Quest has earned its place in the mobile Pantheon right along Angry Birds and Jetpack Joyride.

FINAL SCORE: 10 / 10 = GET IT! NOW!

Battleheart Review (iOS/Android)

Gamers looking for strong titles on their iOS or Android devices really have a mixed bag. With casual gaming so prevalent, it’s hard to find really solid games that can keep a player hooked for hours. That’s why it’s especially nice to find games such as Battleheart, an Action RPG developed by Mika Mobile. Battleheart lets you create a party of up to 4 adventurers, and through battling monsters level up and acquire loot. The centerpiece of the game lies in its control scheme: while in battle, you can move your characters around the screen by tapping and dragging from the character to where you want them to go. Attacking is just as easy, by dragging a line from your character to the enemy you want him or her to attack. While the game does reward strong micro-management skills, it’s approachable enough to be picked up and played by just about anyone. The game features a broad cast of characters as well, spread out between 10 unique character classes, each with its own unique skill tree which you can progress in as the character levels up. Using each character’s skills is easy as well – just tap on the character and their skills will appear in the top-left corner of the screen, which you can tap on to activate.

The sheer amount of classes available allows you to build a party of adventurers to suit your own personal preferences. Knights, Paladins, and Monks can act as tanks to take damage that might kill your weaker party members. Damage dealers such as Rogues, Barbarians, Rangers, Wizards, and Witches can kill off enemies and support your party in surprising ways. Meanwhile, support characters like the Priest and Bard can keep your party alive and make them stronger. You’re given free reign to construct your party however you want, and the game rewards experimentation. Battles consist of moving your characters around the screen to attack enemies and avoid their attacks. Most battles last about 5 minutes on average, and consist of waves of enemies you’ll need to defeat. Some battles have you fighting special boss enemies, which will require special tactics to defeat. Winning a battle rewards your (living) party members with experience, gold, and loot, which you can equip them with to make them tougher and deadlier. And if you’re feeling lucky, you can take your party to one of the game’s Arenas, where you’ll find endless waves of monsters to earn rare loot, depending on how many enemies you slay. Between battles, you can hire new party members at the Tavern, assign skills at the Academy, outfit your party in the Armory, buy and sell loot at the Merchant, and swap active party members at the Keep.

As far as the game’s presentation, the art style is cute and clean, which suits the game’s whimsical charm. Being a fantasy game, the musical score is appropriate, and while you won’t necessarily be listening to it out-of-game, it helps with immersion.

Mika Mobile has created a rare treat on the mobile platform, an action game that appeals to casual and hardcore gamers alike. Battleheart is available on the iOS App Store and the Android Marketplace for $2.99. Although there is no trial version of the game, it’s hard not to recommend, especially at such a low price for all the entertainment you’ll get out of it.

Verdict: Buy It!