It’s weird to be treating a genre that’s around 20 years old as a new discovery, but my minor obsession with iPhone games has collided with the resurgence of tower defence games on the platform. I’ve always suspected that I was mentally incapable of playing strategy games, even making the likes of Advance Wars an exercise in frustration.
I still find myself going back to strategy games, though, in the hope that the latest thing will be ‘the one’, and I’m frankly astounded that I’m still resisting the purchase of Halo Wars, but the plethora of cheap examples on the iPhone has been very tough to resist.
It was the much-hyped and technically fantastic Star Defense that did it for me and tower defence in the end, and unsurprisingly the first few minutes with the game were met with that familiar feeling that I’d wasted my money. The very first level, which tasks you with surviving a minimum of 20 waves of enemies, was fraught to say the least, and the epic 60 waves of the later stages was pretty frightening.
12 hours later… I still suck at it. I’m getting better, though, and I’ve made it through the first three planets and scored a fairly respectable 40 waves – challenge me here – in the game’s endless Challenge mode. And what’s more, I like it enough to buy the previous must-have iPhone tower defence game, Fieldrunners, which I so far haven’t enjoyed quite as much but still like playing as a slightly more traditional example. It’s not as technically impressive, but it’s still very polished and different enough to coexist peacefully on my phone.
There are people who follow the iPhone gaming scene more closely than me who reckon that tower defence is past it now, the iPhone equivalent of twin-stick shooters in the early days of Xbox Live Arcade, but as a latecomer who has been playing games as long as I have it’s not often that I find a new genre that I’ve never really played before. It’s just the sort of thing that I want to play on a phone: fun for a few minutes but also suited to sitting down for a marathon session when I really should be, you know, working or something. Let’s have more of this stuff that actually works with the touch screen rather than trying to cram first-person shooters or driving sims onto the iPhone, eh?