[Guest reviewer Colin Brown profiles each of the games in the latest bundle from IndieGames’ co-created site, Indie Royale.]
The tower defence genre has long been a ripe target for an enterprising indie developer to take a crack at. It’s popular, but there’s plenty of room for some innovative designs to tweak, twist and overhaul the format. 11 bit studios doesn’t really do this in Anomaly: Warzone Earth, choosing to keep most of the traditional tower defence elements intact. Of course, the one thing they do change actually changes everything. You see, in Anomaly, the towers are already built, waiting and a tad evil, so it’s the creeps that you need to manage. Yes, Anomaly is what the kids are calling a reverse tower defence. A tower offence if you will. By flipping the traditional gameplay on its head, Anomaly makes for a rather neat campaign revolving around the management of a squad of APCs with limited resources.
In the not too distant future, an anomaly appears from the sky. Surprise surprise, it has crashed down in the middle of the Middle East, with another hitting Tokyo later, making Earth into somewhat of a war zone. These mysterious anomalies have taken the form of a giant dome of energy, triggering a series of defence mechanisms that are blocking the military from getting in and examining whatever the hell is going on. Enter you, and the speedy commanding officer you play as. Travelling with a convoy, you need to plan your route and manage your troops as you trek around within the dome. It’s easy enough to plan a route, with a simple scroll opening up a satellite view that allows you to mark the safest, fastest routes. Of course, getting through these routes alive might still pose a problem.
Handling your troops is fairly simple with just enough complexity and choice to layer the gameplay. Using funds from picking up minerals and blowing up towers, you can order in whatever tanks and missile launchers you please. Each has some obvious pros and cons, so the unit management becomes a huge part of preplanning. You’ll need to have enough firepower to get enemies down, but you’ll also need heavily armoured fellows to take the brunt of the heat. And perhaps you should grab a shield generating unit, or maybe the special abilities offered by a supply truck will come in handy. With just six slots and a very limited pool of cash, these sorts of decisions offer up a lot of different strategies and options.
But apart from all the pausing for tactical mix-ups, you also have a presence on the battlefield. An avatar under your command must run around the field, grabbing supply drops and activating helpful special abilities. These range from obvious additions like a repair ability to neat gadgets like a stealthy smoke screen. You’ve only got a handful of each, so careful resource management and the ability to deploy everything accurately and quickly is absolutely required.
And while I’ve mainly focused on the gameplay, Anomaly is no slouch in terms of production values. It looks sharp, with great explosions and tremendously detailed landscapes. It also throws in a fully voiced campaign alongside the nice soundtrack and solid sound design. Overall, the impression Anomaly gives is that it was polished to an absolute sheen in every aspect. It’s a very professional, very slick and very fun take on the idea of a tower offence, showing off the excellent skills of the team behind it.
[Anomaly: Warzone Earth, Puzzle Agent 2, The Dream Machine: Chapters 1-3, Children of the Nile: Enhanced Edition, and Adventure Apes and the Mayan Mystery are available in the Stuffing Bundle on Indie Royale.]