It's been too long since we last had a go on a tower defence game for Symbian. So stepping up to fill the gap is Robodef from DaSuppaStudios. To those familiar with tower defence games, Robodef is a standard romp. And if you like to have a dose of Mecha in your video games then look no further. Robodef is available on the Ovi Store for S60 5th Edition and Symbian^3, there's a free trial and the full game is only £1.50. Read on to see my verdict.
Tower defence games are a popular genre, a quick Google search will throw up plenty of Flash-based variants. For those who aren't familiar with the genre, tower defence games are where strategy and arcade action meet. Whatever the story line, the basic premise is always the same. The player has an array of weapon towers they can place on a map to prevent a torrent of enemies passing to the exit point of the map; let too many of them get past your arsenal and it's game over. Have the right weapons in the right places however, and the income from the bounty of each vanquished enemy will enable you to construct ever more elaborate lines of defence.
The strategy element of tower defence games comes from choosing where to put each type of weapon, and choosing when to buy more towers and when to upgrade the ones you have. Choosing which type of weapon to use depends on the type of enemy you'll be facing. Usually, a blend of everything is eventually needed as the game throws more and more types of bad guys at you. In addition to weapon towers, there are usually de-buff towers, most common of which is the "reduce the target's speed" type.
The differentiation between tower defence games depends on a vague story line to establish the technology of the player's weapons and their enemies. Once the tech lore is laid out, it then comes down to choosing the arithmetic of damage points and resistances. Fortunately for players, tower defence games are too fast paced to attempt a quantitatively based strategies!
In the case of Robodef, the game seems to be set in the distant future, and your task is to defend the pass to a nearby city from a hoard of tanks and robotic war machines. There's no firm identification in the game for each type of enemy, but the graphics are sufficient to discriminate between varieties of robots and tanks.
Befitting the genre of futuristic robotic warfare (e.g. think of the BattleTech/MechWarrior franchises), the player has a range of weaponry spanning both real-world and Sci-Fi technology. The low-tech weapons are as follows: 20mm calibre cannons, most effective against "trikes", the Howitzer, which is effective against light tanks, and rocket launchers, which are most effective against slow targets. The futuristic devices are an "EMP" (electro-magnet pulse) turret, which doesn't damage targets but slows them down (our mandatory de-buff tower), and a "Tesla Turret" which seems to channel bolts of lightning through neighbouring towers to do high amounts of damage to enemy targets, and is the most expensive item in the game.
In Robodef, the object of each level is to survive 25 or more waves of enemies; each wave having progressively more targets, being tougher and faster than those that went before. You start with a meagre budget and so will have to mount your defences on the cheap, and build up as you go. Every item can be upgraded in three ways, damage per shot, rate of fire and maximum range. Some of the heavier weapons have a minimum range too, so if they have been placed close to the edge of the map, you can actually extend them too far.
The graphical style of the game is striking, in that the user interface attempts to mimic a toughened military CRT display, with occasional interference showing on the screen, and the map fades to black at the border. Again, mimicking the worn-down post-futuristic (!) style found in the MechWarrior PC games.
My main criticism with the design of Robodef is with the scale of the graphics. I found that the sprites for each weapon tower are very small, so much so that very precise touches are required. Furthermore, I reviewed Robodef on a Nokia C7 with a generous 3.5" screen, so I can imagine that moving down to a 2.8" or 3.2" display could quite easily make the game unplayable. This is a shame, because the game already has the ability to drag maps around to see beyond the confines of the screen. A better alternative would have been to set a higher zoom level and ask the player to pan around more. This is a perfectly adequate way of handling tower defence games, because often the player's attention is only concentrated on a small area of the map at a time.
Other inconvenient aspects of the gameplay are that once a tower has been placed, it can never be moved or deleted. This makes the game play somewhat inflexible. Being able to sell towers would compensate for the occasional mis-placed weapon because of the scale problem described above. It would also allow players to modify their strategy as each level progresses.
If you can get past the small-scale graphics, Robodef is certainly worth a look for fans of this genre. However, if this is your first tower defence game, then the small scale graphics may prove to be too frustrating. The only popular alternative on Symbian is Dictator Defence, which might have a slightly more user-friendly interface.
Grab the free trial and let us know what you think in the comments.
David Gilson for Ovi Gaming, 2nd December 2010
Reviewed by David Gilson at