As soon as Steampunk Tower’s title screen loads and the jazzy, big-band music starts to play, you just know that you are about to experience something a little different. Offering a stylised twist on the tower defense game, this is a fast and furious romp through an alternate history filled with rampaging mechanical nightmares bearing insane weaponry, and fans of the genre are sure to lap this one up.
The Imperial Army is marching on the eccentric Lord Bingham’s Etherium mines, but by golly he isn’t going to stand for any of that sort of nonsense, and so he has enlisted your help to protect his precious and powerful resources. It is your duty to build towers and arm them with a variety of lethal weaponry, such as machine guns, saw launchers and tesla blasters, in order to drive off those bally awful invaders and show them a thing or two about what it means to be British. As you progress, you can conduct research so that your guns can be upgraded, improving their strength, firing rate or reload speed, while extra abilities are also unlocked, allowing you to unleash the power of Etherium upon your enemies. These take the form of devastating electrical attacks, carpet bombing runs and EMP blasts which knock the enemy from the skies, but they must be used wisely as their availability is limited.
Speaking of the enemy, they come in a multitude of despicable shapes, including simple foot soldiers, hulking tanks armed with city-levelling cannons, airships and even great clanking multi-legged walkers that require immense amounts of firepower to bring them toppling down. Each unit has its own strengths and weaknesses, being vulnerable to certain types of weapon and resistant to others and it is here that the game’s greatest challenge is to be found. While the early levels pose little to test even the most casual of players, the difficulty soon ramps up and swift juggling of units is required, where the most effective gun must be brought to the fore to deal with the immediate threat. Throw into this the need to reload and upgrade on the fly, and you soon find yourself manically swapping and selling weapons in your best efforts to overcome that dastardly Imperial Army.
Fortunately, the control system is extremely straightforward and responsive, allowing you to switch out weapons with ease and speed, and ensuring that the game maintains an appropriately high pace. Between-level upgrades are handled in a similarly accessible manner, using a simple tree system that allows you to pick and choose the nature of your enhancements. Graphically, the game is quite pleasing, with appropriately idiosyncratic designs for the many and varied enemies and weapons and which contribute heavily to the game’s appeal, while the Etherium weapons are delivered in a strikingly visual manner to liven things up.
However, units are all drawn in silhouette, reducing detail and therefore character, which is unfortunate, while backdrops suffer from a lack of variety. Musically, the big band jazz tracks of the title screen work splendidly, evoking the steampunk era perfectly and again marking the game out as something original. It is a shame then that they are not utilised in-game, instead being replaced by a moodier, more stirring and martial theme. Although this works well enough, one can’t help feeling that the big band music would have enhanced the gameplay no end and added much to the atmosphere.
Steampunk Tower is certainly fun and addictive, which offers a unique approach to a well-worn genre and backs it up with strong visual design. Although initial levels are straightforward and easy to overcome, matters soon become more complex, with hordes of approaching enemies requiring careful planning and use of weaponry. It is here that the game is at its most enjoyable, with bullets and cannon fire bouncing wildly across the screen, and turrets switching left, right and centre. A minor niggle is that you cannot choose your targets, which are instead selected by the AI, but this is not enough to bring the fun factor down. The game might prove short-lived for expert players, with only 15 levels in the main campaign, but the 7 bonus challenge maps provided will help compensate for this and overall this comes recommended for anyone looking for an entertaining diversion, whether you are a tower defense fan or not.
Final rating: 7
iTunes link: Steampunk Tower