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CONSOLE: Nintendo DS (DSiWare) DEVELOPER: Tom Create PUBLISHER: Gamebridge
RELEASE DATE (NA): October 25, 2010 GENRE: Tower Defense
// review by SoyBomb

The war against great games rages on.

Tower defense games are all the craze these days. Maybe. Possibly? Perhaps. I swear, there has been a flood of tower defense games wedging themselves into an already overcrowded game market, saying, "Me too! I must be a part of this metropolis of games!" It is at this point when I realize I'm not sure what I'm talking about anymore. But I do know this: tower defense games are popular, so it's hard to stand out when each one is so similar. Looking at GO Series: Defense Wars on the eShop, you might anticipate not being wowed by anything, and you would not be incorrect. This is, however, more than your average tower defense game, if only because there are no towers to defend.

In Defense Wars, you play the role of an army. A very small army, mind you. Like the army of a small remote township far removed from the oversized metropolitan areas of the world. As if Sanikiluaq had an army. Yeah, just like that. Your army only consists of a few tanks here and there, some puny cannons, and one big cannon that seems to be the "big kahuna" 'round your parts. You are being opposed by a far superior army, and your only goal is to ensure that that army doesn't destroy all your valuable equipment and, by logic, take over the base (that you never actually get to see). How? By blasting the heck out of them before they cause enough damage to your base cannon to annihilate it. Sounds simple enough. And, I suppose it is.

Here's the problem: the controls are awful. Surprisingly, this game makes use of the stylus pen for EVERYTHING. You can smash buttons all you want, but they will not function at all. Menus are stylus-based, as is the main action. To cause lesser cannons to fire, you have to touch one of them and slide the stylus in the direction you want it to fire. Thankfully, selecting one causes others of the same type to fire simultaneously. Bullets ricochet off the left and right sides of the battlefield, and that could be your saving grace. Likewise, other cannons perform similarly. You will eventually have access to tanks, which move in whatever direction you slide them. Problem: if they roll themselves onto the top screen, you no longer control them, and they'll likely be consumed by gunfire before you can shout out "Who designed this?"

Yet it's the base cannon with which I have the greatest issue. It fires powerful shells that can cause significant damage to an enemy or group of enemies from the subsequent explosion. To fire it, you have to swish the stylus in the direction AND distance you want the shell to go. Unfortunately, you can only slide on the bottom screen, but the shell can go as far as the peak of the top screen. In the heat of the moment (as there is very little time to stop and think about your actions), it's really hard to gauge how far your ammo will fly after you slide the stylus, and more often than not, you'll miss your target. Precision plays a major factor in survival, but when there's no time to factor in that precision, you're left scrambling to survive with very little chance for success when new units are constantly barraging your army.

My defense is only successful when someone else plays for me.

Sadly, in each of the 25 missions, the types of secondary weapons are predetermined. Maybe it's two small cannons, maybe it's three turrets and a tank. There's no strategy to selecting the best ones because they've already removed that thought process, though at least you get to place them wherever you like in the bottom quarter of the playing field. The only strategies needed are how to plug more bullets into your enemies within a short time frame, and how to sneak bullets around the occasional sandbag wall.

To further irk the player, you can only control one type of weapon at a time. So while you're firing off your base cannon, you're neglecting the other weaponry. You're constantly switching back and forth, and it doesn't matter in the end because you just can't fend off hordes of soldiers with one weapon at a time. Try to switch between them as quickly as possible, but it's mostly an effort in futility that really ruins the experience. Plus, you need to actually LOOK to see if your bullets actually hit your target; while doing so, other swarms are marching forth. There's too much action but not enough time or ability to retaliate.

For DSiWare, the graphics are... cute yet functional. Seeing dozens of little soldiers scooting about can be fun, though that amusement is offset by being excessively frantic with your sweaty stylus at the same time. Audio is equally functional, though somewhat repetitive over time. The organ music of defeat gets stale and unwanted after several plays and periods of frustration.

They had a good idea, and then they sat on it. Initially, I found myself enjoying Defense Wars far more than expected, but as the levels droned on without any significant variety (but WITH some unnecessary and downright devious design choices), I found my interest quickly dropping like the temperature on a January morn. Yes, Defense Wars is only 200 DSi Points (or $1.99 in actually currency), but even with the low price point, I still believe there are far more entertaining and control-savvy tower defense games out there deserving of your time, praise, and wallet stuffins.

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