Commando Jack doesn't waste any time throwing you straight into its insane action. There is a story, and it's one that's well told with some very silly cinematics, but here are the basics: aliens are hell-bent on destroying earth, particularly earth's greatest hero Commando Jack. It's not a complex story but what makes this game so interesting is that it's not just a cracking tower-defense game, it's also a first-person shooter.
How does this unlikely genre hybrid work then? First off, at the start of each mission you're given enough resources to lay a few rudimentary gun turrets around the gridded battlefield. As with Fieldrunners 2, you can shape the layout of your defenses to divert enemies towards a longer route, giving your guns extra time to tear up the threat. It's when the enemy waves begin though that things get interesting, and you can man Jack's personal turret and contribute with some meaty first-person shooter action.
Enemies range from the sort of grey grunts that typify the modern-day perception of what an alien should look like, to charging tubbier versions that rush towards Jack with a belt-load of grenades, and vehicle-based units that you'll have to pick apart with precision if you're to pierce through their armor. If you don't take an enemy out before they reach Jack's turret, he'll lose a bit of life, and head closer to a distinctly unheroic game-over screen.
As you destroy enemies, you earn more currency which allows you to place more and more fiendishly destructive turrets on the map. The bog-standard machine-gun turret is your basic unit, while laser turrets do a great job of melting through vehicles, and 'gloop guns' stop enemies in their tracks. As for Jack's turret, you can choose to simply upgrade his starting machine-gun tower, man a flamethrower version, or opt for the rocket-launcher. These first-person turrets can also be upgraded with currency.
No one will be surprised to hear that you can pick up more coins from the in-app purchase store, but the game does a pretty generous job of throwing change your way, and this is a title that's enjoyable enough for you to want to take your upgrades as they come, rather than feeling pressurized into spending more money. You may still balk at the idea of a cash-shop that accompanies a paid-for app, but Colossal Games walks the right side of the line, so don't be put off.
All of this mayhem takes place in five locations, so you can expect to battle the alien menace amongst double-decker buses and bright red phone boxes in London, at the feet of The Sphinx in Cairo, or amongst the garish neons of downtown Tokyo. The artwork is highly accomplished, and features the sort of distinctive angular designs favored by Blizzard, while the soundtrack combines frantic rawk with the fabulously over-the-top 50's sci-fi refrains of Mars Attacks.
As someone who's slogged their way through more than a few tower-defense games this year, that first moment of manning a high-explosive turret put a very big grin on my face. If you're in need of a convincing reason to delve into yet another game in the genre, developer Colossal has a very good one for you indeed.
What's Hot: A great blend of gaming genres, and a real thrill to blast your way through.
What's Not: A few more locations would have been welcome, as would a little more variety in the enemy types.