One of my favorite downloadables from last year came out onto Steam and then onto iOS (iPhone/iPad). It was named “tower offense”, a new genre of sorts. What if you were the one attacking the defenses, but were on the good side? A mysterious alien force that has crash landed on Earth in the towns of Baghdad and Tokyo. From there they have setup camp and built up defenses in these cities, shrouded by a shield protecting…the Anomaly.
Story Mode is the only thing available to you from the start, in which the game will tutorialize you for the first two missions so you get used to the mechanics. Soon after things will get so frenetic that you need to know what action is needed. When you first roll up to the first defenses the aliens have setup, seeing them shed the building as if it was a skin is a thrilling and creative moment you won’t soon forget. From there, the game begins to take the training wheels off one at a time, as new features and more modes become unlocked.
As the Commander, you’re outfitted in a powerful suit that allows you to deploy special abilities onto your attacking units that are both offensive and defensive. The first ability you’ll have is to play medic to your units. What’s a commander without people to command? Here, you’ll get six slots for units to deploy such as APCs that shoot machineguns, Crawlers that shoot rockets, Shield units, and even Tanks. Now you won’t have direct control of your units, but in tower defense fashion – your units have a path (city streets) they will follow. And often you’ll have to adjust their route due to falling debris, hazards, or gaping holes that would mean mission failure as all units would meet their doom. It’s also best to adjust the route for the path of least resistance, though that might mean a lower score at the end.
You’ll soon get access to Baghdad Mayhem and Tokyo Raid, which are reverse survival modes in the game. It is up to you to survive and destroy all the defended towers around you in 10 waves. In doing so you’re given the same scoring model as the rest of the game, focusing highly on competition within the leaderboards. It’s a fun side-mode that strips away the story and allows you to be creative and strategic without fulfilling other objectives other than to secure your own survival.
New to the Xbox Live Arcade version of the game are Tactical Trials, a mode that takes place in a virtual environment. This is meant to be a training for the units you command in the Story and other modes. You’re given various abilities and an objective. As the title implies, you must be tactical – these are creative, strategic, and difficult challenges. It requires you to put some thought into it rather than just try to wing it.
Leaderboards play a huge part in this game, as it has been in other platforms. When you complete a mission, you’re rated on performance. Time and Score play a big factor. And as such, you’ll earn medals that range from Bronze to Gold and various titles therein. All of it adds up to a total score to place you on the leaderboards and will tell you what Rank you are once its done. Should someone beat your score, you will see yourself fall down the ladder.
Futuristic Baghdad and Tokyo look unique and fantastic, with the most impressive lighting and shadowing effects around. The game simply looks beautiful. Unfortunately though, for highly-intensive combat zones you’ll notice some slowdown. While it doesn’t hurt you overall, just interrupts the flow of the game while you wait for your units to destroy the towers to free up resources and restore the silky smooth framerate seen elsewhere.
As stated earlier, you are in direct control of your commander. It isn’t a very demanding control scheme as you only move, deploy abilities, and speed up time – if you choose. However, when you want to deploy your ability, you do so from a 4-direction wheel by pressing and holding the A button. By this method: you hold A, then select the ability, and have press A again to use it. This could have been avoided by allowing you to use the d-pad to select an ability or when you highlighted the selection that it would choose that ability right away. There just seems to be extra step to deploying than necessary.
Read my review of the PC version of Anomaly Warzone Earth released last year.
So without question I recommend Anomaly Warzone Earth. I do find the PC version to be the better version to own both for fidelity and stability, but if for whatever reason you can’t or won’t – then the Xbox Live Arcade version is more than competent and is a must play. The slowdowns on XBLA are far and few between, but noticable when the action gets heated. The difficulty tends to spike when you least expect it. Anomaly is a great, tactical game with a twist that encourages replayability and has stiff competition amongst friends and strangers on the leaderboards.
An XBLA code for the game was provided by PR for review purposes