Excellent! Bathed in the flames of battles!
Set it up!Click and love it!Okay. Sorry.There will be something here. Maybe.

SteamWorld Tower Defense

Game by Image & Form
Reviewed by Philip "Pocket Squirrel" Wesley (Deluxe Version Review 12/07/2015)
Size: 49 BLOCKS on the eShop. (Verified by our Download Guide)
Save: SD Card Backup/1 Slot
Released: 2010
Works with: DSi Ware Software compatible devices.
ESRB Rated: E10
Rating Descriptions: Mild Cartoon Violence
Quick Opinion (Highlight to View): Try it out if you are a fan of Tower Defense,.
Disclosure: This game was purchased by the reviewer.

Opening Snide Remarks

I rather enjoy Tower Defense style games and I became interested in trying this one out after the release of SteamWorld Dig. I was not sure if I would do a review of the game until SteamWorld Heist was announced. So, I decided to do a review of this game and SteamWorld Dig on the week of the release of SteamWorld Heist. Think of this as the first bold entry in a SteamWorld Week!

Most of my experience with Tower Defense comes from
games like Defense of the Ancients and Plants VS Zombies. The world of SteamWorld Dig is quite interesting enough that I had to leap backwards in time and try out this particular chapter in the SteamWorld universe. It feels like the more SteamPunk elements of the SteamWorld franchise are not completely in place at the beginning of this particular game, but the world building is solidly in place.

The basic idea of SteamWorld
is that you control a Steam Powered Robot Sheriff in a world where some minerals are food and water is the most important resource. People exist, but all of the humans have devolved a bit. In this game, you play a Sheriff who has to hire robots to protect the Gold mines around Cowbot City. Yes, the game does have a wild west theme to it and a little bit of robotic fun and frivolity. The robots are using the Gold as food, but the humans want to steal it for some weird reason.

Someone has to stop them from doing that and you are that someone!

So, is this introduction to the universe of SteamWorld any good?
Let us doff our fancy hats, which are surprisingly missing from this game, and find out!

Gameplay Description

The general design of the game is that you start with a set amount of money that you use to set up robots in set positions of the map to defend your goal. Each robot type has a different type of ability and strength level. One tower is really powerful but damages other towers, one tower slows enemies, and one tower requires manually selecting enemies to fire upon. The other two towers are a standard one and one that fires rapidly, but costs more. There are five tower types, six enemy types, and about a handful of maps. The game is a little light on content, so it makes up for that by having two difficulty levels for fans of Tower Defense: Easy and Normal, which really should be marked as Manageable and Ridiculous.

While the gameplay is simple to pick up,
the actual game has some dramatic difficulty spikes that make it a bit more rough to get into. You keep losing until you figure out a decent placement that lets you survive. Getting a perfect on some of the later maps is quite a daunting task. Therefore, this game is not really for people who are not familiar with Tower Defense. In comparison to a Field Runners or Plants VS Zombies; SteamWorld Tower Defense is more for a person who is already familiar with the gameplay of your average Tower Defense title and is looking for a new challenge.

Liked: This game has some teeth to it in the difficulty department and makes up for a lack of variety by having an almost unfair difficulty level. It is a fun game and well worth the price of admission if you are a veteran or fan of the Tower Defense genre.

Hated: If you are new to the Tower Defense genre, this is not a game that should be your first introduction to the genre. It also lacks a lot of variety and balance in comparison to other games in this genre. Which is a bit frustrating because the game plays well and has a lot of potential that I feel is not being tapped.

Graphics Description

The Wild Western motif of this game is reflected well in the browns, light greens, and yellows of the world and it's maps. The human designs are appropriately obnoxious and the comic designs of the "Cowbots" are pretty unique. Overall though, it looks pretty good and easy to see. It is easy to see the distinction between various types of enemies and the health levels of your units. Menus are easy to navigate and everything looks fairly detailed on the small screen. Of course, we have provided several screenshots to illuminate the detail of this game!

This level is so very mean.An early foray into frustrations.
A small sample of some of the ridiculous CHAOS this game brings.
Tap Tap Tap!Tap Tap Tap!
See the words under Cowbot City? You gotta EARN those.
Again with the turrets.A very good hill to die on.
Yup. There is a lot going on here.

Liked: It has a pretty distinct look to it and information is easy to read and understand. The world design is unique and portrayed well by the reasonably detailed graphics. This game looks a little like some of the later Game Boy Advance games in terms of graphics fidelity and that hits a bit of a nostalgia trigger with me for some reason.

Hated: There is nothing about the game that stands out in the graphics department, there are no interesting light tricks or cutscenes. I think the game needed a bit more animation as well. The close up picture of each unit should have been animated to make the game feel a lot more alive.

Sound/Music Description

It feels like there are only two songs in the entire game and, while good, they can get a little distracting. The music feels like a mix between machine sounds and a low "gutteral" Western Jazz fusion. Sound effects are appropriate and can often give you hints about what is happening off out of your zoomed in view. Generally, I recommend turning the music OFF in some of the later levels, because you want to be able to hear the sounds a bit more. There is a foghorn sound at the beginning of each wave and you will be able to hear the difference in some of the turrets.

However, you can not tell the differences
between kinds of enemies by their sounds. You would expect that an enemy carrying dynamite might have a sizzle sound accompanying it's presence in the play field. The Nuke Guy looks like he might make a muttering sound as he moves, but he stays silent. Also, I think it would be a bit funnier if the enemies made more noises when they died.

Liked: The music is from Allister Brimble, who's done a "Western" game before on the Spectrum and Commodore 64 called Wild West Seymour, and the music here is pretty good. The sound effects are good, but the real issue with the music and sound in this game is...

Hated: .... that there is not very much of it. Seriously, the game needs more sound effects from the enemies and more musical compositions.

Play Control/Game Design

The play control on this game is almost entirely touch based. You can tap and drag your cursor over money or to set up which enemies to target. For example, if you have a "Sniper" unit that manually fires, you might want to pinpoint the one enemy in a crowd of enemies that is holding dynamite, thus taking out an entire line of the vile critters. You can also drag the stylus across units and hit the R or L button to quickly upgrade them. Generally, this game is about memorizing the waves of the enemies and adapting your strategy to fit with those waves. You can also move the screen with the Directional Pad OR by holding down the Stylus and dragging to move the screen. In the heat of combat, I did find myself accidentally placing units when I was trying to move the screen. It would be nice to have an option to just have the Directional Pad move the map, allowing me to just use the stylus to set units. Maybe a "Grab Visible Money button" would be good too.

The game feels like it was made by an enthusiast
of the Tower Defense genre that felt that too many games are too lenient on the game player. The issue with that design is that, often, you limit the appeal of the game to your audience. Generally, the game feels like there are a lot of good aesthetic design elements coupled with fairly basic gameplay that feels incomplete.

Liked: I like the look of the game and the challenge it provides, however...

Hated: ... this game has some issues that make it feel like it should have spent a little more time cooking. I feel like there must have been a lot of great ideas on the cutting room floor of the garage (or office) where this game was given life.

Improve (Free Ideas For Game Designers! From a QA Drone.)

There are a few things I would change about this game. In fact, I think I will go ahead and number them from ONE to TEN, in an easy to read list. Yes, this feature of our reviews is always a bit presumptious, but it does help to frame our criticism. Also,

This game needs a main "character" to show up in the cutscenes at the beginning and end of each level. The character could be just talking to a speaker, but being able to pick a "character" could give the game more of a
personal feel for the player. Maybe the character could look damaged when you lose and triumphant when you win.

The game needs a few more maps and some of those maps could have had things like walls that block turrets from seeing enemies, or mud that slows down the humans. Maybe one level could have had fire that slightly injures the humans, but makes them faster by negating the effects of the Bartender robot.

You can see the rank of a unit by tapping it, but it would be better to have a physical representation of the rank by changing the color of the unit or making the unit more robust.

It would be really nice to have more music and sound effects. I would like to hear what kind of enemies have entered the map before I can see them. Also a music/sound slider where I could lower and raise the volume of the individual audio sections.

The ability to lock map movement to just the Directional Pad as a part of the options.

The game really needed to have two "menu" styles. One would be "Story" mode and the other would be a "Challenge" mode. The reason for dividing those would be for the next thing I would change about this game.

If we kept Story apart from Challenge, the ability to carry over the remaining money from previous levels in the Story mode would be superb. Although they would have to lock your Story Playthrough to one difficulty level through out. They could also make the game more difficult to compensate.

This could also allow the Challenge mode to be more editable. They could add another layer of difficulty and also allow the full spectrum of units to be used in previously beaten levels, if you beat them in perfect.

A little more animation and some kind of in-game encyclopedia that listed the Damage Stats and HP for the units and enemies would be good.

I would like to spend a little bit of that money that would carry over in the "Story" mode on hats for the player character.

Those additions would have increased development times and costs,
but it would be a neat bit of polish to this game. It feels like a very rough gem that has not been polished to a fine sheen before being served as lunch.

RIYL (Recommended If You Like...)

Are you a fan of Tower Defense? Do you have about $5 and you want to try something with a mean bit of challenge? Well, you will like SteamWorld Dig for the difficulty and rough nature of it. I would be a bit remise to call it the "Demon Souls of Tower Defense" because the game is missing a bit of the balance that accompanies unforgiving games. However, if you really want a bit more challenge and are willing to sacrifice the cost of a good bagel and schmear for Breakfast, check out SteamWorld Tower Defense.

Final Words

I find this title to be a bit frustrating because I see it as an unpolished game with a lot of fun potential that seems to have been left on the cutting room floor. If there were ever an "HD" or "Director's Cut" for SteamWorld Tower Defense, I feel that a lot of the issues that hold it back could be overcome fairly easy. This is a bit like a Geode in that there is a shiny, brilliant game hidden in a plain rock. The problem is that no one has bothered to take a pick axe to split that rock open and reveal the lovely gem formations inside, yet.

Gameplay: ***
Graphics: ***
Sound/Music: ***
Play Control/Game Design: ***
Value: ***

Star Total: 45
Personal Opinion Merit: 19
Final Score: 64%
Letter Grade: C
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