A few years ago, the South Korean game developer COM2US successfully trademarked the term “Tower Defense” to protect the title of one of its popular games for the iPad / iPhone Tower Defense: Lost Earth. The trademark was awarded as the term was beginning to rise in popularity. It was, and still is, used to describe a growing number of online browser-based strategy games proliferating throughout the web. Many online games websites with collections of embedded Flash games and links use “Tower Defense” as a category. The COM2US game isn’t normally found in the group. This article looks at three that are.
The main goal in a Tower Defense (TD) game is to thwart the efforts of an enemy that is trying to cross a map or maze. In the earliest types of TD games, the enemy was some type of medieval band of conquering soldiers, and the goal was accomplished by placing towers about the map or maze from which archers could launch arrows to stop the marauders. The enemies came in waves, and as they were defeated, the game player could upgrade the towers to aid in defending against the next wave. Over the years, game developers have been creative by varying the types of maps, mazes, enemies and towers.
One of the cleverest examples of variation is the Bloons Tower Defense series of games. Developed by Ninja Kiwi, the invaders are friendly-looking, brightly colored balloons (bloons.) But make no mistake; they are the enemy for the frightened monkeys who are the ‘towers’ in the game. The basic ‘dart monkey’ tower throws darts to pop the bloons. There is a wide variety of upgraded towers including boomerang throwing monkeys, magic monkeys, and super monkeys. Other types of defenses can be utilized like placing spikes on the paths. The bloon enemies get more sophisticated also. Larger bloons invade at faster speeds, and there are bloon blimps that take many hits to go down.
There have been five versions of Bloons TD. The most recent one was released in December 2011. Number five has the most content yet in the series, and can keep one playing for a while as it challenges the player to unlock the next best tower. Ninja Kiwi’s own website is a great place to play the game.
A simple and witty TD game is Mushroom Farm Defender. Published by Freeonlinegames.com, and hosted throughout the web, this TD game’s towers are psychedelic swirly mushrooms that hurl stones at invading birds, snakes and dragon characters. Upgraded mushrooms hurl their stones farther, and can have magic attacks. Mushroom Farm Defender is quick to understand and master, and is a good introduction to the TD game genre.
A more recent TD masterpiece that is getting a lot of play is Kingdom Rush. This TD game was created by the Uruguay based game studio Ironhide and is being distributed at Armor Games. The setting for Kingdom Rush takes its player back to the basics. The towers are medieval towers. The enemies are Tolkien-esque orcs, goblins, and giants. Archers, mages, cannons and infantry need to be precisely placed to prevent invasion. There are many stages with multiple modes, each with new secrets and surprises (look beyond the ice in Icewind Pass.) Kingdom Rush offers a clever variety of ways to stop the invaders. For example, a fire-storm can be sent from above to wipe out a group of charging enemies, or reinforcements can be sent in to help the soldiers (they appear as regular town folk and farmers.)
Kingdom Rush is a finely-tuned, well put-together game. A lot is crammed in the download and it has a clear, glitch-free appearance. The game-playing world will eagerly await a sequel. In the mean-time, extra stages are available with premium content. It won first prize at Uruguay’s 2011 National Video Games Awards.