Review: iBomber Defense (Xbox Live)
Scottish developers Cobra have built up a tower defense style game that does everything you would expect of a game in this genre, but does it with enough style and good looks that it feels a genuinely new experience. Initially released in January with some bugs and issues, the Nokia exclusive is back in the Windows Store with a bit more polish, but is it enough?
Version Reviewed: 220.127.116.11
Let's start with the game itself. Built around a World War Two theme, iBomber Defense takes you to three fronts which represent the various levels and terrain you can fight in - the North Africa theatre, the European 'Western Front', and deep into Russia. You can go for a full campaign mode in the game, or a quick starting single mission. The twist in the game is you can play either as the Axis or the Allies, although this doesn't mean you get to play the attacking forces trying to break through the defences - you simply defend as the Axis or defend as the Allies.
Neither is there a feeling of progressing through historical moments of the war. The levels have some nice visual clues but if you're hoping for a replication of the Battle of Tobruk you're out of luck.
In case you haven't clocked it from the screenshots, iBomber Defense is a tower defense style game, where one side will follow predefined lines and routes that lead to a central point that the other side will be defending. That defence is through a series of weapons that will pummel the attacking forces, wearing them down as they pass by the towers, eventually being destroyed a little bit short of the central point.
iBomber Defense throws in an alternative style of playing on some levels, where you are asked to be an aggressor with your towers and sink a number of ships as they pass through your territory on the high seas. This is a nice visual change and does require some subtle changes to strategy, including a consideration about the height of the terrain where you place your weapons.
As the genre dictates, this is a game of decisions and resources. The weapons all cost money, and the more effective weapons cost much more money than the weaker weapons, but the weaker weapons can be purchased in larger quantities to make up for the lower damage.
Weapons will require maintenance (and repair) as a level progresses, which costs money. As does upgrading each weapon for more range and more destructive potential. And while you do earn money for destroying each enemy tank, it's never enough. Which is where the decisions need to be made, and your resources (primarily money) need to be carefully allocated.
The main controls to buy, place, repair and upgrade are all easy to use. The levels can be zoomed with the pinch movement, although to be honest you're going to leave it zoomed out to see as much as possible because so much of this game is based around a tactical overview of the whole landscape, not one specific area.
The one control issue there is with the small 'playback' controls in the top right of the screen, which give you access to the settings, pausing the game, or restarting a level (which you can initiate at any point, but then need to play through three more levels to have it available again). These are rather small, with an unforgiving target area. It's quite easy to hit the wrong one by mistake, but thankfully any action will always need a confirmation so nothing can be damaged by accident.
You also have a 'fast forward' mode available here, which is very useful when you have all your weapons in place and want to scream through the actual playing of the level which can be a rather passive affair. Yes you can repair and re-arm towers with you watching the damage rack up on both sides).
Unfortunately, iBomber Defense is still needing some work. Both the loading times for a level and a slowing down of frame rates, when a level becomes 'busy' with weapons and enemy troops, damaged my confidence in the game while playing. While I've not experienced it, others report the game is still prone to some 'crashing' and requiring a restart.
This is frustrating, because the title is almost there. There is a definite learning curve and an increasing difficulty level on display which shows good design of the levels, although it is quite a steep curve, and the game can be less accessible on later levels.
If it ran smoothly we're looking at a 75-80% strong game in the score, but with the issues around the code I'm going to bump it back to a 65. It's playable to a certain extent, it could do better, and while it all just about holds together this really is a case of caveat emptor.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at