We head into battle with Ironhide Game Studio's pocket-sized re-release.
Ever since I upgraded to an iPad for my App Store gaming about a year ago, I haven't had cause to return to playing on the iPod Touch. The reasons are obvious: the iPad offers a bigger screen and gaming experience, more room to flex your dexterity upon, and gameplay that's simply easier on the eye.
Coming back to the smaller device to try out the newly released version of Kingdom Rush for smaller screens, I'm reminded what an incredible piece of engineering this ridiculously thin and powerful unit is. It would have made me dizzy when I was a young child, and it's easy to forget what magical technological progress these devices represent when compared to the gaming of thirty years ago.
The reason for all this waffling is that Ironhide Game Studio recently took on the challenge of translating its incredibly successful tower-defense title Kingdom Rush from the iPad to the smaller screens of the iPhone and iPod Touch. No mean feat considering the depth of information and upgrades to be found within the game.
The gameplay will sound familiar to all except those mobile gamers who have somehow managed to avoid the genre up until now. Across a series of branching maps, enemies approach your defenses in waves and you rely on the defensive units you've placed strategically to see off the overall invasion. If the enemies reach the end-point and you become overwhelmed, then you'll fail the mission.
There are four tower types to put into battle: the archery tower which does a great job of taking pot-shots at enemies from afar, the mage tower that can cut through the defenses of even the most hardened warrior, a bombard tower that throws area-of-effect bombs onto the battlefield, and a Militia tower that provides heavily-armored soldiers. All of these cost varying amounts of money and you'll begin each mission with a fixed amount of it, although more is added to the pot as you slay the enemies.
There's a lot more active involvement with Kingdom Rush's combat than in typical tower-defense games, and so rather than simply trying an initial loud-out, watching everything go horribly wrong, tutting, and then going back to the drawing-board for another attempt, you can call in reinforcements that periodically become available during each mission.
The wonderful meteor strike can be selected and targeted on a specific area of the map, causing molten mayhem to rain onto anything careless enough to stand in the way of it. Weak (but sometimes game-saving) reinforcement soldiers can be used to hold back the horde for at least a few precious seconds.
As will all of the units in the game, these bonus reinforcements can be upgraded using the stars that you earn from playing through the campaign. For example, you might want to add a damage-over-time affect to your meteor strike, or give your bomb-throwing towers a little more range. The towers themselves can even be upgraded during gameplay, although the coin price is steep.
The game looks lovely as well, even on the small screen. The artwork has a lovely cartoonish style, while little boats sail around the map screen and every unit, grass verge and building is intricately detailed.
The depth of strategy, the potential to tweak and experiment with your upgrade load-outs, the wonderful artwork, and everything else the developer has managed to somehow cram into this tiny package all add up to one very special game in an incredibly saturated genre. If you couldn't play Kingdom Rush the first time around, you owe it to yourself to play it now.
What's Hot: Deep strategy, great customization, incredible artwork and a minor miracle on smaller screens.
What's Not: Being able to pinch-zoom just one more level would have been the icing on the cake.