Is the world ready for an 8-player co-op tower defense game? That question ran through my mind when I first learned of Terrorhedron courtesy of a post at Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Tower defense may be the new match 3 among indie developers - you can't throw a rock without hitting one (the games, not the developers). But Terrorhedron brings enough fresh ideas to the table to warrant a look.
First, let's talk about the curious name. The -hedron suffix refers to a shape with multiple surfaces; a hexahedron, for instance, has six surfaces. Terrorhedron may not be very scary, but it's completely built around the multisurface concept. Enemies progress along a path that spans all six sides of a giant cuboid structure. You'll need to think multidimensionally in order to stop them from reaching the heart of your base and diminishing your precious lives. Thankfully, keeping up with the levels' MC Escher-esque twists and turns is relatively painless. Hold the left mouse button to rotate the camera, right button to pan, and the mouse wheel zooms in and out. You can even save multiple preset camera angles if you're into that sort of thing.
Terrorhedron features a promising experience system. Players gain experience from every enemy killed, which eventually leads to levelling up. Each level unlocks something new, from tower upgrades to maps. Part of how the game eases you into its complexities is that you start with only a single type of tower and one map. Over time 7 towers, two tower extender pieces, and 6 maps become available. The only downside: there's no telling when you'll unlock what. You can't even see what level you are without starting a game. Terrorhedron really needs a screen that indicates the player's progress and each level's unlockables in order to tie everything together and encourage us to keep coming back.
Unlocking new towers and upgrades greatly increases the strategic possibilities available to players. That's a good thing, because even on the easiest setting, the game gets pretty tough. I hesitate to imagine how the cleverly named 'Mathematically Impossible' difficulty plays. Math just never was my thing! After a few attempts, I still have yet to reach wave 25 of Easy and beat a level, but I do get farther each time. Speaking of which, the game doesn't play how many waves each difficulty setting contains, so you currently have no way of knowing how long a map will last. The option to save an in-progress single-player game would also be a blessing.
That brings me to the 8 player co-op feature that first caught my attention. Right now, playing an online game requires one person to host and everyone else to connect directly to the host's IP address. There is no matchmaking yet. As such, I haven't had the chance to engage in a multiplayer game (hence these impressions instead of a review). Without proper matchmaking, I would think of the game as supporting as many players as you can convince friends to buy the game. If the developer ever adds proper matchmaking (dare I dream of Steamworks support?), 8 player co-op could be a thing of beauty.
Terrorhedron is currently available directly from the developer's website for
five twenty bucks. The creator, Dan Walters, plans to bring it to established digital distribution platforms very soon. For many folks, Steam is the only platform that matters, and such a release could be in the cards if Steam accepts Walters' submission. He even promises the addition of Steam Achievements, should that happy event occur. No word on Team Fortress 2 hats - we can only dream.
As tower defense games go, Terrorhedron isn't the most polished entry, but it's certainly unique. At first glance I didn't find the sparse geometric level designs and spherical enemies too visually impressive. Now that I've played the game for a few hours, I can definitely say the visuals fit the premise quite well. The chiptunes soundtrack from Random is extremely catchy, so that adds a bit of personality. Terrorhedron is especially impressive when you realize it was programmed by a single person over the course of 3 months. With continued support (and a Steam release), I could see Dan's game building up a sizable cult following.