Sweetwater Defense

Proving that you simply can’t have too much of a good thing, here comes Sweetwater Defense from Werebear Games.  This is a TD or tower defense game of the fixed path variety but there’s enough cool stuff here to allow this game to stand out and stake its own claim in the not-so-wild-anymore frontier of this category in the app store.  There’s no backstory to bother with; just know that there are pirate fleets (ARRRRR) and monsters threatening your coast and you have to build up defenses in an attempt to send ‘em all down to Davy Jones’ locker.  When you start the game you’re presented with a large, scrollable map showing all the locations you can play, divided into easy, med and hard levels and there’s about 25 unique maps in all.  Your defenses consist of 7 towers and you face 6 different enemy ships and 5 unique bosses.  The sound and music in this game is very well done; the BGM in particular is extremely hip and though contemporary enough to actually be out of place for the game’s setting, I found it to be quite awesome and moody.  The fully 3D graphics are definitely some of nicest you’ll see on the iPhone.  Lots of environmental detail, stunning water effects, rain even…good stuff.  The enemy ships and bosses were given a particularly high level of attention as for example, each ship has 2 unique sinking animations plus a special one for what I can only describe as the ‘penultimate death blow’ where a ship will notably shake and wobble when it’s just about to be sunk; really nice touch.  Each tower changes graphically with each upgrade which is always a point of contention with TD fans.  A rare feature but one that I think will catch on is that you can manually specify a target per tower if the auto-targeting just isn’t quite meshing with your strategy.

The big feature this game puts a lot of bank in is the ‘time slider’ on the right of the playfield and I have to say it’s a huge success.  First of all it allows you to pause and fast forward; no big deal as that’s in every TD worth its salt.  However it’s a fully variable speed slider so you can actually go from pause to slow motion to turbo in analog increments.  Topping it all off is the ability to double-tap the slider and enter the rewind interface.  This allows you to go back to the beginning of any wave on the current level and play from there forward.  You can do this at any time without penalty so if a certain strategy is failing right out of the gate just rewind to the beginning and try something new.  TD grognards fear not as this feature doesn’t water the game down and there’s one big reason for that: this game is challenging.  So much so that the rewind feature becomes not just a gimmic but an integral part of the game as you keep trying to find just the right combination of towers and upgrades to ace each wave.  It’s not just ‘flood the map with the cheapest tower and upgrade them all to max’ either; that just doesn’t work here.  Special resistances and abilities per ship/boss mean you’ll need to use all your towers strategically to win.  To me this need to seriously think about what you’re doing and utilize all available resources is just fundamentally good game design and enhances the puzzle feel of good TD’s.
Gripes and suggestions:
  • There’s no ingame context-sensitive info and it’s desperately needed.  You can’t tap/hold on an enemy to see what it is or any stats; you have to pause and go all the way back out to the guide which seriously borks immersion.  You can tap a tower to get to the upgrade menu (but not the tower name)  and see stats that way but once its fully upgraded even that workaround is gone; it’s again pause and hit the guide.  You also can’t see the tower names from the build menu at the bottom of the screen; yes…again back to the guide if you need info.  Hopefully this gets rectified in an updated as it will make the game far more accessible to new players.
  • The tilt (accelerometer) feature…in a word: awkward.  In theory it’s supposed to let you gain some unique perspective on the action but in reality eh, not so much.  Seems the best thing to do with it is disable it which by the way is outside the game in the main iPhone Settings app (along with sound and music toggles).  This feature could be a fairly cool spectating method if fleshed out a little more, aka take a page from Tower Madness and let you tilt all the way into a basically first person view.
  • You do get scored on each level but shamefully there’s no online scoreboard to compete with others (and increase replayability).
In conclusion, this an excellent TD game and if you have a spot for it (if you’re anything like me) on your ’TD page’ then add it right away.  Yes it’s priced a tad higher than the usual TD but after playing quite a bit of this game it’s obvious why; it’s simply better than the usual TD and in my opinion worth an extra Washington or 2.
version reviewed – 1.0
reviewed on – iPhone 3G 8GB 2.2.1
screen flip support – yes
iTunes music support – yes

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