Block Fortress: War tries valiantly to narrow the focus of its stellar, open-ended base building and first-person tower defense predecessor, but it misfires repeatedly and never quite lives up to its potential. Foursaken Media once again tackles a Minecraft-esque universe of war-torn block races, this time constructing a campaign around relatively linear battles wherein you have partial command of a hero and his minions, plus full control over the placement of defensive blocks, turrets, and bombs.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then PopCap must feel downright exalted upon spotting this new casual tower-defense affair. Trolls vs Vikings is so similar to the massively successful Plants vs. Zombies that the two would be barely discernible if not for this game’s slightly cruder art style. Almost every friendly and enemy unit and gameplay element has a direct analogue, and while Trolls vs Vikings is competently designed and tries to improve the groundwork that PopCap laid, it whiffs on some of the fundamentals.
Foursaken Media barely misses a beat on Bug Heroes 2. It takes 2011’s hit tower defense/dual-stick shooter/real-time strategy hybrid and pumps out a cool, fun, great-looking, and fast-paced sequel that ups the ante on just about everything (but sadly marginalizes the story of feuding bugs). Strategic nuances mix brilliantly here with arcade-style action, and the mission, skirmish, and endless modes alike all offer plenty of variety in the flow of play — though not in terms of scenery, as only three maps are included.
To carry the breakfast analogy through to its full extent, Force of Habit’s retro-styled tower defense/shoot-‘em-up hybrid Toast Time comes with a glass of insanity and a side of ridiculousness. It’s utterly bonkers and lightning-fast right from the start, with a typically British kind of over-the-top silliness and tongue-in-cheek humor, though there’s a solid mechanic at the core. Your singular preserve from a ruined breakfast is Terry the toaster’s projectile bread slices, which you fire at inter-dimensional, time-rushing beasts intent on sneaking off with your morning meal time (seriously).
The original Dungeon Keeper series on PC turned the tables on old-school fantasy conventions. Rather than being the do-gooder hero, you instead took the role of a dark overseer tasked with carving out a vast subterranean realm and populating it full of insidious traps, not to mention evil minions primed for slaughtering virtuous warriors. Opening the floodgates and sending the good guys to their doom was a great change from the norm, which made for lots of fun and oft-hilarious moments. Dungeon Keeper on iOS — a free-to-play reboot of sorts — streamlines things enough that it's a different beast from its predecessors, but the series' trademark humor and absorbing lair crafting remains blissfully intact.
Tower defense games can be seen far and wide on the App Store, so for a new entry in the genre to stand out, it has to be something special. Castle Doombad lets you play as the bad guy for a change — Dr. Lord Evilstein — and requires you to lay down traps all over your fortress to keep heroes at bay. Adult Swim’s game not only delivers a fun experience with its cartoonish presentation and enjoyably vertical levels, but it also offers enough depth and variety to keep both newcomers and veterans of the genre invested for the long haul.
Backyard Monsters: Unleashed expertly adapts Kixeye’s popular Facebook game for iOS, putting you in charge of a horde of deadly fiends as they build a mighty fortress and wage war on neighboring clans. The beasts are on the scary side of cute, morphing sweet and colorful character designs into something out of a nightmare — which rather adheres to their particular brand of destruction.
When PixelJunk Monsters debuted as a downloadable PlayStation 3 game in early 2008, it proved a real diamond in the rough – and something of a revelation. This was before tower defense games exploded in popularity, and still months before we had an App Store, let alone one eventually filled with numerous great genre options. To see a game mine such rich strategic complexity out of a simple approach was so impressive at the time, and I fondly recall pumping dozens of hours into the game, alternating between extreme emotions of glee and rage as I stared into the cartoonish glow.
Assuming that the old adage about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery still holds up in the App Store era, the makers of Kingdom Rush should feel downright exalted by Pirate Legends TD. Copycats are nothing new in the iOS space, but while subtler "tributes" might try to disguise their inspirations, Pirate Legends TD makes no such effort. From the tower selection to the upgrade paths, placement approach, and UI design – plus the between-mission upgrades, map screen design, and use of heroes – this tower defense affair barely diverges from the uniquely fantastic concoction of elements brewed for Kingdom Rush and Kingdom Rush Frontiers.
We're past the halfway point for the year, and 2013 has already proven to be an incredible time for new iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch games. Whether you tend towards quick-hit affairs or engrossing, strategic time sinks (or a little of both), there's been an absolute wealth of great options to choose from in a huge array of genres. Why wait until January rolls around to look back on such greatness? We've compiled our picks for the 25 best iOS games of the year to date, all of which are surefire options for on-the-go entertainment.