Sep 14, 2011
I have not played this tactical war game—reverse tower defense, if you know or understand what the means—on a computer. So maybe I shouldn't be saying this. But I have played games like it, with game controller, with mouse and keyboard. They control fine but, usually, I just want to get my hands on the action like a good general standing over one of those table full of miniature units, shoving them around as he strategizes. On the iPad I can do that.
Anomaly HD, as a reverse tower defense game set in the streets of alien-invaded cities such as Baghdad. You a war commander looking down on a battlefield where tanks and trucks need to advance past enemy emplacements toward a goal. You start each map by purchasing a column of upgradeable armored units. You choose from rolling tanks and rocket launchers, shield generators and so on. You survey the map, a tangle of roads lined by turrets of different lethal types. You think, then draw the best route the armored column should take. Then you let them roll, repairing them on the fly, planting decoys, maybe diverting them under heavy fire onto sudden detours. You use money earned from both turret destruction and the picking up of roadside plunder to upgrade and add to that armored convoy that so desperately needs to reach the end.
The iPad is the perfect screen for the strategic action in Anomaly. The game feels like a natural on it. Some players may recoil from the significant challenge of even the game's middle difficulty level (so telling that it is labeled "advanced") but this is otherwise an iOS game to recommend with none of the caveats about compromised controls or play-it-on-the-supermarket-line simplicity of so many others on the App store. Consider this one of the best war games on Apple's machines.
Anomaly: Warzone Earth [iTunes, $3.99]
We loved, loved Anomaly Warzone Earth when it came to the PC. What's to stop us from loving this backwards tower defense game when it hits the iPad and iPhone?
Due out in the coming weeks, Anomaly Warzone Earth is an anomaly of a tower defense game. Instead of controlling the placement of towers, creating a meat-grinder tunnel of flame-belching, laser-pewing, machinegun-shooting turrets, you control the hapless ground units forced to trudge through the death alley.
Chillingo calls it a tower offense game, I think it's a genre that really needs to be explored much, much more on the iPhone and iPad.
I think the moment where Anomaly Warzone Earth—I don't see a colon on the game's website; letting all three words of the title evenly plod from the mouth pleasingly highlights its Eastern European pedigree—really grabbed me was the first time I rerouted my caravan of tanks and mechanized walkers to loop to endlessly pummel a poor, doomed laser turret.
There are moments of real frantic, seat-of-the-pants fighting in Anomaly Warzone Earth, but it's never inhumane—an overhead map for planning your route through the killing fields of an alien threat is always just a click away. All the action stops, you can take stock of how well and truly you may be fucked, and then dive back in when you've got a new plan. I like my apocalypse simulators genteel. Anomaly Warzone Earth will politely look away while you have a little cry.
Anomaly Warzone Earth is a tower defense game, a genre that runs the gamut between relatively mindless mobile offerings like Fieldrunners to full-blown hardcore genres-within-genres like Defense of the Ancients. Tower defense games are already an inversion of an older game type-instead of killing all the stationary bad guys, you would place the once-bad-now-good guys and wait for the endless marching forces to either fall into bloody heaps before your murder engines or to scrabble and crawl over your defenses and overwhelm your…well, if not your home base, at least the other side of the screen.
The passive nature of tower defense games-you place your units, you cross your fingers, and you take your lumps-make them perfect for touchscreen gaming experiences. Which is why it isn't an insult when while playing Anomaly Warzone Earth on my shit-hot new Windows-powered entertainment radiator I thought, This would make a great iPad game. (And seeing the iOS logo on developer 11 Bit Games' site, as well as an as-yet-locked support forum for Apple devices, it's surely coming. Or I could just Google it and…yes, it's coming.) But while I'm excited to try out Anomaly Warzone Earth on my iPad (once Apple actually ships the thing), I'm getting a kick out of the game on my PC. (It's also available for Mac.)
You ever heard that line about how a good song is a good song, no matter who's playing it? David Bowie's original version of "Modern Love" is 180 beats per minute of undiluted tailfeather shaker-but you can still slow it down and draw out the sadness to suit the singer's strengths.
I kind of feel that way about games sometimes. A good gameplay experience, pared down to the essentials, still highlighting the strengths of its specific outlet, should be able to transcend platform. (Except when it doesn't.)
I've only played about three hours of Anomaly Warzone Earth, but since rumor has it that the story campaign is only about five hours total, I feel confident is recommending you take a look if the idea of something that plays like a rudimentary real-time strategy game mixed with a rudimentary puzzle game appeals to you.
Hrm, that makes it sound bland.
It's like Command & Conquer: For Kids! met Pipe Dreams (Eat It, Bioshock Edition), plus the little dude from Syndicate was running around picking up powerups like vision-occluding sandstorm generators or spectral damage-soaking dummy tanks dropped from stealth fighters piloted by embarrassingly voiced Japanese actors. If that's not worth a ten spot, what is? [AnomalyTheGame.com]