GRave Defense HD Review [iOS]

Developer Art of Bytes releases a sparkly new HD remake of immersive, irresistible tower defense strategy game GRave Defense, with the game now available to the iOS market, having done impressive business on the Android market.

rating: 4.5

Developer Art of Bytes has released a sparkly new HD remake of immersive, irresistible tower defense strategy game GRave Defense, with the game now available to the iOS market, having done impressive business on the Android market. The update includes 20 intricately designed maps, a raft of new achievements, and a completely new survival mode that adds to the bloody fun no end. GRave Defense (not a typo by the way) is essentially an embedded horde survival game, combining omnipotent Sim City style construction with tactical deployment of armoury, and an attention to adaptation and evolution based on the strength and direction of the enemy forces. But that doesn't cover half the appeal €“ basically, the player has to fend off vast hordes of rampaging zombies by building pitched weaponry positions around a map with a variety of infiltration points. Those positions aren't completely based on player preference, as a weapon can only be built where the map offers a construction point, which encourages a more considered approach to building defences. At first the budget is very limited, allowing the ability to build only a few basic weapon positions, but each vanquished foe brings a financial reward, which can be used to shore defences, upgrading existing weapons incrementally on a five point scale (with an increased cost for the highest level) or purchase more weaponry.

That weaponry ranges up from the simple but effective mini-gun, which compromises power for the fastest hit-rate, through more effective, but slower fare like the rocket launcher, and up to very interesting options like the Tesla coil. Early levels feature only limited armoury options, but as the player progresses these new, more effective, and consequently more expensive weaponry options become available. But inevitably the increased range of powerful weapons means a parallel increase in the variety and durability of the enemy. Each wave of the horde packs an extra punch, with the final few offering all manner of multi-coloured hellish creatures, and the pleasure of the game comes from defeating them before they can get anywhere near the player's base (which is the overall objective of the game). The gameplay rewards tactical positioning, as well as buying the right weapons at the right time, and the fact that each level features multiple attack entry positions means the player can't rest on their laurels and overload the defence positions around that entry point. Additionally, defeated enemies occasionally drop health packs, which can be collected to heal wounds created by any zombies who manage to slip through the net, and coins, which offer a small boost to the coffers. But the time limit for collecting each object is fiendishly short, so any drop in concentration can mean missing them. The game includes two modes - Campaign & Survival Mode - with four difficulty levels - Casual, Normal, Hard and Insane. Casual is hard, so God knows how anyone can handle Hard and Insane, which, if you're me, last embarrassingly short amounts of time, and invariably involve countless curse words and a very nearly smashed iPod. If the fact that I keep returning to try the harder levels, after what I initially though was an acceptable practice period in Casual, is not an indicator of quality, then I don't know what is. The key to any iPhone game's success is often in its capacity for episodic playing €“ let's face it, the majority of games played on smart phones or iPods are done so while the player travels or sits on the toilet €“ and that is my only reservation with Grave Defense. Each level is slightly long, with 20 or so waves in each level it takes some time to get through one level, and the gameplay experience is one that encourages level completion in one €œsitting€. That's fair enough for longer journeys, of more than 20 minutes or so, but shorter bouts of playing won't allow completion, which is somethin of a frustration, though not fatal in any way. Grave Defense is an irresistible experience €“ it encourages extended play, and really it shouldn't be marked down for the fact, and crucially it manages to channel the spirit and appeal of horde combat gameplay (which is a major part of most FPS titles these days). Definitely one for repeated playing. It's GReat. Grave Defense is available to buy now for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.
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