geoDefense Micro-Review: All Hands, Battle Stations

Last week gave us geoDefense - tower defense rendered in a Tron-esque, vectorized look and feel. Apple mobile gaming is paying off for good, simple ideas delivered with high production values. Does geoDefense qualify?

Loved
Challenge: Well, more like "seriously respected" the challenge. geoDefense can get downright frustrating at times, but tower defense, done well, is difficult. You won't be blowing through this in a matter of hours. For all the trouble it'll throw at you, it still teases you into picking it up and killing a good half-hour trying to figure out the level that's giving you trouble, and persistence will deliver the eureka moment where you figure out the winning build. That, or you just start frenetically throwing up gun towers to stanch the bleeding (which, surprisingly, works sometimes). On harder levels, the resource cost and availability is such that precision placement of the correct tower through the first three or four waves is the only way to win. That's not my cup of tea, but I respect the fact that it is for many fans of the genre. Still on top of all this is a hardcore mode that is way beyond my capabilities.

Presentation: Drawing heavily on the kind of visuals that made games like Geometry Wars so appealing, geoDefense is very well rendered and ladles you with eye candy. The sound for big weapons and major explosions will overwhelm your speaker (and framerate) at times, but that's the only drawback. Tower defense follows a well established gameplay, so it's left to graphics and sound to distinguish a first-rate game from others. Geo-Defense's vector-style graphics, pixel bursts, and warp effects more than set it apart from the crowd.

Hated:
Curse my Fat Fingers: There are still some minor quibbles worth pointing out. Anyone with large digits is going to have some difficulty making precision placements. geoDefense attempts to compensate for this by spreading out a range circle much larger than your finger tip, with X and Y axes highlighted, but even then the screen's sensitivity was such that some placements were incrementally off. Trying to aim a laser tower down odd angles is tough. Forget using your thumb for anything. Also, the pause button is in a bad location. You'll be pounding it like a TV remote with dying batteries trying to restart a level at first. Try aiming your finger tip off to the left of it. Last criticism - your high score registers only if you beat a level. Considering how downright unfair some of the later challenges are, it would be kind of the developer to at least allow me the partial victory of seeing a seven-figure score on the level that has been kicking my ass for the past six days.

geoDefense is easily recommendable for tower defense enthusiasts. Those looking for an introduction should know they are getting a serious challenge after about five levels. Still, for both types of gamers, geoDefense supplies enough to keep you coming back - for how long depends on your competitiveness and commitment. After finishing a draft of this critique, I went back and attacked the last level giving me trouble, and figured it out. While I immediately put it down to savor my victory - quit while I'm ahead - I'll start on the next level sooner or later.

geoDefense, for the iPhone and iPod Touch, was developed and published by Critical Thought Games. Currently available from iTunes store for introductory price of $0.99. Full price will be $3.99. Played all 30 levels on iPhone on standard difficulty.

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