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Revenge of the Titans (PC) artwork

Revenge of the Titans (PC) review

"Compounding that particular issue is the fact that itís difficult to see very far. The perspective is close enough to the ground that you can easily see detail around each building and your base, but to see the whole level youíll need to use the keyboard keys or the mouse to scroll. This adds nothing useful to the experience and seems to exist mostly as a cheap means of adding difficulty."

Revenge of the Titans, developed by the fuzzily-named Puppy Games, is a tower defense title that takes you on a tour of the galaxy as you defend a series of bases from alien hordes. The story isnít important, so I couldnít really tell you anything beyond that. Whatís important is weapons development.

Between each stage that you conquer, you get to pick an upgrade to help you survive waves of aliens in the next area. The choices available at first can seem overwhelming, and the impact of those choices often takes a few rounds before it even becomes apparent in many cases. Obviously, selecting a rocket tower can make a good difference as you go up against heavily-armored enemies that are capable of absorbing standard shots, but reaching the point where you even have the option to build that tower requires you to make a number of key upgrades along the way. Those upgrades in turn require that you first make other upgrades. Thereís a whole chart to help you make decisions as you advance, but often it comes down to picking the icons that look like they might unlock another icon the represents a powerful structure you want to erect. Itís not often clear what your available options will do for you ahead of time.

If you make good choices as you advance, the game can progress quite smoothly. If you choose poorly, itís entirely possible to screw yourself over. If that happens, youíll need to go back to the stage selection screen and head backward a few stages to try again. Your progress is saved as you go, meaning you never lose too much ground if you donít develop the right things at the right times, but the fact that you can so handily put yourself in a bad position strikes me as bad design (especially since you canít know how later stages will go until you give them a shot).

The flaws inherent to trial-and-error progression are mitigated somewhat by a mechanic that allows you to lower the difficulty on a stage. If at first you try and donít succeed, try again. If you find yourself running into a wall, you can always sacrifice a spiffy ranking and tackle a less demanding version of the same map. The general design remains about the same, but sometimes the lower setting will allow you to survive a struggle that you otherwise couldnít.

Revenge of the Titans also puts significant emphasis on refineries, which are buildings that you can only build near large crystal deposits that dot the surface of the various planets you must conquer. Stages actually donít begin until you build your first refinery. Then aliens slowly start marching onto the scene and you have to hope that you positioned enough defensive weaponry to survive the onslaught. Refineries, meanwhile, keep distributing resources (like the sunflowers in Plants vs. Zombies, if you played that title) that give you the funds to build additional towers.

There are a few problems that prevent me from enjoying the game as much as I otherwise might. One of those issues is that paths the aliens might follow arenít clearly defined. Arrows point to where the extraterrestrial scum will materialize, and there are paved roads. However, the aliens largely ignore the roads and will just follow whatever path they likeósometimes even flying over mountain ranges, in later stagesóso you can barely use the landscape as more than a general guideline. It will work against you as often as not.

Towers also have limited ammunition. You might place towers perfectly, but then a bunch of aliens will rush them and the guns in a given tower will expend all of their ammo. While the reloading process takes place, those towers are essentially defenseless. Thereís not a tower in the game that can long withstand an alien rush, so a tower thatís out of bullets is a tower thatís useless.

Compounding that particular issue is the fact that itís difficult to see very far. The perspective is close enough to the ground that you can easily see detail around each building and your base, but to see the whole level youíll need to use the keyboard keys or the mouse to scroll. This adds nothing useful to the experience and seems to exist mostly as a cheap means of adding difficulty. If thereís a bruiser stomping across the map, you have to spend time looking in several directions to find him, and that time takes you away from monitoring your towers that you may or not have placed in a manner that can impede the alien advance. Itís truly frustrating to place a few towers that should be able to stop a slew of aliens, leave them momentarily to scan the map, then return just in time to see your towers going up in flames because they ran out of ammunition (which never takes long).

I realize that every tower defense game needs to have a distinct hook, since thereís not a lot of possible variety in the genre, but Revenge of the Titans feels like it makes a lot of interesting choices without actually worrying much about how everything comes together. If youíre going to make it difficult to tell where aliens will march, developer dearest, donít then make me spend half my time scrolling around just to make sure that Iím covering all sides. Donít let aliens easily destroy my towers if I guess wrong about where to place them and donít restrict my supply of ammunition. Let me actually strategize.

Revenge of the Titans makes a few unfortunate blunders, but itís not actually a bad game. The visuals have a charming retro flair, and the sound effects are quite competent. The range of buildings that you can erect is also quite pleasing, and you also get to consider the placement of accompanying structuresósuch as barriers that slow your foes, or battery towers to enable larger ammo suppliesóthat definitely add worthwhile elements. If youíve played a ton of tower defense titles and you want something a little different, youíve found it. If youíre new to the genre, though, Iíd recommend starting elsewhere first and maybe working your way up to this one.

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Staff review by Jason Venter (May 11, 2012)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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