Island Defense is a vanilla, path-based, tower defense game with a lot of sprinkles on top. It controls well enough and has some good features that make a passive genre more active with things like heroes and usable skills. If you’ve seen a tower defense game before, you’ve seen this by-the-numbers game with its generic tessla, machine gun, flame thrower, freeze, rocket and sniper towers. Its a touch screen game that uses only the mouse. There are no hot keys to use abilities or items.
One of the tough pills to swallow about Island Defense is its lack of speed. Everything is either on or paused with no increased speed. On the other hand, I do feel like I have to be active in the game rather than just let it play itself like other games of the genre. I have a direct impact on the outcome rather than my towers doing the work. Extra speed would be nice with a hot key to do so.
In terms of enemies, there’s a wide variety that all do the same thing. Infantry, vehicles and aircraft, but there are bigger and more powerful versions that appear. Standard soldiers, medic soldiers, armored soldiers, robot soldiers, giant robots, giant mechs for the infantry. Then with the vehicles there are jeeps, motorcycles, tanks, giant tanks, APCs explode into troops and so on. There’s nothing silly, there’s no flare or sizzle even if the robots are a bit quirky to have.
The foes all travel on the same paths to their objective and if twenty make it to their goal, you’ve lost the battle. To defend, you’ll need to place defense towers, thus making it tower defense. You have limited funds and locations, so you need to be smart with where you place them.
The game twists the standard towers into a system where machine guns are fair against ground units, teslas are great against vehicles, flame throwers are great against infantry, and rockets are good only against air and ship units. It turns the game into a rock-paper-scissors. Each tower has its own damage, range and reload.
On each map you have a select few places to put your defenses so you need to make the best use out of limited locations. In battle you can click on a lot, to purchase a tower with gears. Then upgrade it with more gears or sell it for gears. If a location is buried, you’ll need to dig it up for a minimal price.
Each battle map has several waves of enemies. After each wave an icon will show up indicating where the next wave will come from. The interesting thing here is you can click on the icon to start the wave, even if the previous is still going. The faster you start the next wave, the more bonus gears you’ll get. Its a great way of turning a passive into an active.
I should also point out that out of the six defense towers, the Sniper towers are almost useless because they may fire long range, but its slow and only hurts a single enemy. I bring this up to ask; why bother putting something so slow when there’s limited space and all locations are next to an enemy path?
During a battle, you’ve got your choice of three heroes, each with their one passive and one active ability. The chain gunner that has walking bombs and can lay land mines. The sniper which has a long attack range and can call three soldiers to stand guard. The sergeant has some sort of bubble shield or soldiers and can summon a mech.. You can move the hero around on the map by clicking them and then clicking somewhere on the path, but its fussy. A lot of times it just refuses to work.
Other than a hero’s specific abilities, you can summon a commando and call in an air strike. The airstrike takes a second to arrive, so when you’re bombing a group of enemies, make sure that you space out the drop time. The commando is useful, because he will actively hunt nearby enemies and block enemies. The hero will block as well, but there are some foes like motorcycles that just slip by. Using the abilities has a cool down. The commando disappears once the ability is ready again. The sniper’s soldiers will disappear after a while, but the chain gunner’s mines stick around forever.
As you use a hero, they gain experience that once they go up a level, you can assign a stat skill to their health, armor, damage, passive ability and active ability. Its a nice bit of customization and you will max out a hero with ease.
Completing each battle will get you a star rating and earn you gold to spend on unlocking upgrades with a few easy to use menus. You can unlock several different levels for each type of tower that will increase their range, damage and so on. Then in battle, you’ll place a tower for a fee and you can upgrade it for another fee up to the point you’ve unlocked. This adds a lot of choice and customization as well as a facet of grinding. Want to unlock something, just replay missions to get more gold.There are consumable items too: dynamite that blows up enemies, an ice crystal to freeze them and a satellite laser that smites foes. They’re three basic methods, but good players will forget about them. The tough part is justifying paying gold for a consumable when you could just unlock tower upgrades instead. Sure the towers are more expensive, but its better to pour money into what is yours to keep.The game does have its other issues too. The world screen will refuse to scroll. For whatever reason, I’ve needed to go into a menu, then go out of the menu and then it will scroll. During battle, you can pan the battlefield map by moving your mouse to the edge of the screen. The abilities are at the edge of the screen, so each time you need to use something, you’ll scroll the map south, then you’ll need to scroll the map back to wherever you need to use it.
After winning each battle, you unlock the next along with a hard version of each battle map. I do feel like there’s a lot here for the cheap price, despite the minor issues. Whether its for you is up to you. How many other tower defense games do you have? Is generic good enough for you? Are touch screen or mouse click only controls good enough for you? Its a coin toss whether to recommend it.