When it comes to games on the iPad, sometimes form really is more important than function. Some genres just don't seem to perform particularly well on the touchscreen device. Thankfully, tower defence titles don't have that problem. They seem tailor made for a touch-screen tablet experience.
So immediately, 11 Bit Studio’s Anomaly: Warzone Earth gets off to a good start. It presents you with a classic tower defence experience, but with enough interesting variation to keep you grinding through its levels.
There are two ways that tower defence titles work, the first is the traditional build-towers-kill-marching-hordes style of play. It's interesting, but it's also a fairly rote gaming experience [Settle down, I quite like it! - Ed.]. The second, and by far more interesting style, is where you yourself are in control of the hordes advancing towards an important objective. Anomaly: Warzone Earth takes this second approach to the genre and, coupled with its story and setting, manages to pull everything together in a fairly complete way.
Anomaly: Warzone Earth is set in the not too distance future, but its a future that faces some serious challenges. An alien race has invaded earth and is causing havoc in our major cities. Oddly, these foreign creatures only seem to exist in deadly stationary form, and have cropped up all over Earth’s streets. Just to make things even more interesting, 11 Bit Studio’s have designed to locate the action along the dusty streets of Baghdad. Why they did, I don't really know. It's a location us gamers are reasonably familiar with, but it does make you wonder about how game developers view the plight of the Iraqi people. You are tasked with commanding squadrons of armoured units who must make their way through this windy metropolis, taking down as many alien towers as possible on the way.
So sure, the storyline and setting might be a little glib, but the game-play does a decent job of making up for it. There is an element of intensity to the firefights your units get themselves into, and there are a range of different strategies that you can employ to ensure that your tough little soldiers make it through to the other side. Power-ups and buffs (such as smokescreens) can be employed to give your units the edge when heading through choke points. As you get better at taking down alien structures, you will be given access to many more units, which can be strategically selected by you before each mission. Each unit has its strengths and weaknesses, adding a surprisingly complex strategy element into the game. But you’ll need to pick your units wisely - the games difficulty steadily increases, as does the number of different types of towers you’ll be facing. Sometimes choosing the wrong load out can be the difference between success and failure.
In addition to the strategy of its units, the title has a simple to use and fairly innovative path-finder to tinker with before each mission begins, letting you plan out the optimal approach your units will take. On the whole, this all contributes to a fairly engaging iPad tower defence (tower attack?) experience and adds a level of tactical depth.
Some reviewers have heralded Anomaly: Warzone Earth as ushering in a new dawn in iOS gaming. Unfortunately their hyperbole is a little misplaced. As a game it is by no means revolutionary - but titles don't need to be the new black to be good. Anomaly: Warzone Earth has definitely got enough bells and whistles to keep casual players entertained. And lets be honest, if you’re thumbing your way through tower-defence titles on the iPad, you can only really do it casually. Just don't expect it to be the next big thing to hit the touchpad gaming world. Its not.
But its definitely a contender for a top-tier ipad title. Perhaps one of the more engrossing aspects of the title is its visual presentation and its immersive aesthetic. The game just looks good - especially given the limitations of the iPad. Add to this a touchscreen interface that is both incredibly easy to use, and also very responsive. Couple that with some stereotypical, but by no means cliched voice acting (in fact the main narrator is oddly reminiscent of Cpt. Price from Call of Duty 2) and you have a package that is on par with the rest of the titles gameplay elements.
Anomaly: Warzone Earth is a pretty good iPad title. Sure, it's just a different take on an old tower defence formula, but it makes a pretty good job of it. After awhile its gameplay elements can become a little tiresome, but the beauty of iPad titles is that you can as easily pick them up as put them down.
With that in mind, 11 Bit Studio’s Anomaly: Warzone Earth may just be the cheap little title your sliced apple needs.