Editorial | 7/22/2010 at 2:46 PM

Indie-ana Co-Op and the Avian Undead Apps

This week we look at some indie games on a mobile platform.  


Tweet Defense

Developer: Promethium Marketing
Genre: Tower Defense
Available On: iTunes
Cost: $2.99

I have long been a fan of Tower Defense games.  From Warcraft 2 custom maps to Desktop Tower Defense on the web down to Defense Grid: The Awakening on Steam, I've seen the genre grow from its infancy to the widespread place it has in gaming today.  Tower Defense would seem to be a great fit for the portable device such as the iPhone, with it's sharp graphics and touch screen capabilities.  There are dozens of Tower Defense apps available out there, and not much to set most of them apart.  To really stand out from the crowd, a new TD game has to have an innovation.

As the name would imply, the innovation in Tweet Defense is integration of everyone’s favorite 140 characters or less social networking phenom, Twitter.  When you first fire up Tweet Defense, you can sign in to your Twitter account, and the game inputs all your statisitics, like followers, or number of tweets.  Each of these gives a bonus to one of your towers in the game, the Booster Tower.  For a modest Tweeter like myself, the bonuses conferred were pretty small, along the lines of ten to twenty percent, in attributes like damage, range, etc.  These bonuses apply to all towers in range of a Booster Tower.

One other Twitter integration is the “Booster of the Day”.  If you follow this designated Twitter member, then your Booster Tower gets other, often more substantial upgrades.  Sometimes the Booster is one of the developers, other times it’s a fan-nominated choice.  To be quite honest, I was a bit disappointed in the Twitter integration.  The Booster Tower is but one of many towers in the game, and as the most expensive, I didn’t really use it that much.  Twitter really didn’t seem to make too much difference in gameplay.

As far as the rest of the game goes, it’s a solid if unspectacular example of the Tower Defense genre.  The graphics are very sharp, with a humorous style.  Towers are made up of everyday items like lawnmowers and nail guns.  The zombies themselves are more icky than scary, and leave a nice sized puddle behind when they die (again).  Many maps are straight forward mazes, but a few allow for creative maze building.  I found the game to be fairly easy, even on normal difficulty.  Still, it’s Tower Defense, and if you like the genre, you’ll probably enjoy Tweet Defense as well.

Tweet Defense is Geared Towards: Tower Defense fans with a Twitter account
The Co-Op Experience: It’s somewhat cooperative, since others do “help” you, but really, it’s a glorified single player game.

Alive 4-Ever Returns
Developer: Meridian
Genre: Twin Stick Shooter
Available On: iTunes
Cost: $2.99


Recently, we took a lengthy car trip, and to help while away the time, I decided to look at some of the co-op games you can play with multiple iDevices.  A quick Google search for “best of” lists, and I was downloading Alive 4-Ever Returns.  It appeared to be very much like Left 4 Dead, a game I enjoyed very much, and I was curious as to how the dual stick shooter translated onto a touch screen.  Of course, the biggest test would be the strength of the co-op.  I was quite pleased to discover that Alive 4-Ever Returns delivers a polished, deep zombie killfest that was much better than I expected.

The fist thing I noticed when playing Alive 4-Ever Returns was how slick and professional the interface was.  It shows none of the rough edges that sometimes peek through in indie games.  The graphics are bleak and moody, and the sounds are atmospheric, well suited to the subject matter.  Setting up a co-op game, via bluetooth, was a snap, and after selecting a character, the carnage begins with very little hassle.

And when I say carnage, I do mean carnage.  Each level is filled with wave after wave of undead brain-eaters, coming both singly and in large packs.  Luckily, you are armed with all manner of weapons to relieve the zombies of their unholy hunger in the bloodiest way possible.  When a level is complete, the ground is full of blood and bits, and your characters earn experience and money; the former makes you tougher to kill, the latter lets you purchase bigger and badder guns.  The character progression is a nice touch that adds a bit of purpose to the chaos.

The emulated twin analog stick controls are the only area in which the game falters, but I think that’s more a hardware issue than anything.  The tactile feedback of twin sticks isn’t easily copied, and there are moments when you’ll really wish you had a real joystick.  However, as far as portable gaming is concerned, the touch screen is an adequate replacement, and the issues I had with the controls did little to dampen my enjoyment of it.  Alive 4-Ever Returns is a fantastic game, and would be for any system on which it was released.  If other “phone games” of similar quality are developed, gamers are in for a real treat.

Alive 4Ever Returns is Geared Towards: Left 4 Dead fans with an iPhone or iPod
The Co-Op Experience: Up to four players pulp some zombies together on the bus or during lunch break.