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Bloons TD 6 (PC) artwork

Bloons TD 6 (PC) review

"Impoppably good."

Who knew the first monkey to throw a dart at a balloon would explode into an international franchise with no less than six games on its roster? I haven’t paid enough attention to the iterations to understand how we got up to 6 since the prior release was my introduction after their initial outing, when Flash dominated the interwebs. It is apparent in this game that Ninja Kiwi never rests on any laurels, however.

Tower Defence games orient around the mechanic of placing stationary combatants upon a map, which is then besieged by waves of foes which you absolutely must destroy. There are a variety of these, and they all have specific combat methods that are effective against the enemy—known as bloons—of matching types. A track winds around the map and through various obstacles in order to enhance the difficulty by limiting the attack opportunity of your towers. To counter this, your towers can be upgraded with cash earned by popping bloons.

The increase of variety and toughness of bloons consistutes an arms race toward a set amount of rounds that has you trying to figure out how to place towers for optimal poppage. This is standard fare, and quite a few games have experimented with this fun-for-ten-minute formula. Bloons TD 6 does this better than anyone in the industry, paws down. The notable exception that most players will point to is, of course, Plants VS Zombies. This game isn’t mired in the controversy of corporate misbehaviour, though.

Ninja Kiwi plays it smart. They don’t defy the toilet-break comfort zone. Level progress is saved automatically, when permitted. Beginners won’t be overwhelmed with the four different tower types as each level with bloon popping experience and player level. As your profile gains levels, you will unlock more towers and abilities for each. Each tower has three upgrade paths, but only one of them can be expanded fully, while the other two paths cap after two upgrades. A good example of this is the Dart Monkey’s Enhanced Eyesight, which is a second-stage ability that has a low cost, but is very useful in the early rounds of each map.

An an example of the interplay between monkey, dart and bloon, camouflage-painted bloons are invisible to most towers, but with Enhanced Eyesight the Dart Monkey can make short work of their rubber foes. If you choose the next ranked ability, Crossbow, you’re locked into the next two: Sharp Shooter and Crossbow Master, which turn the monkey into a; no, that’s a tower. How about...terror? No, that’s also a tower. In any case, the other two columns of abilities are limited to stage two only. It’s a clever risk versus reward system that encourages you to employ the wisdom of your mistakes for better poppage.

Bloons TD 6 makes useful and fun references to well-known character archetypes so that you’ll have a quick sense of what to embrace while you’re still green as a strategist. Do you employ the glue gunner early on to slow bloons while your relatively ineffective monkeys earn cash for more fearsome towers like the Monkey Ace or Dartling Gunner? Are you biding your time to employ the powerful Super Monkey as a stand-alone damage dealer or employ the Alchemist to power up existing towers? How about the flying monkeys in airplanes and helicopters? Oh, also the pirate monkeys and simian submarine captians. Can't forget them.

The range of tactics in Bloons TD 6 is practically limitless, and we haven’t even gotten into the newly introduced offering of 41 heroes. Quincy, for instance, is an archer who pops bloons with legendary accuracy, improving his skills as a soloist with Rapid Shot for bursts of speed and Storm of Arrows that can address the entire map in a single volley. My personal favourite, Benjamin, is a hacker who enhances your cash income, increases your life count, slows bloons and more. You might also choose the Bazooka-wielding Striker Jones, or High Priestess Adora, who sacrifices monkeys for power, and Etienne, the drone piloting operator. All heroes increase their abilities automatically up to twenty levels after being deployed. They have a relatively high cost, but can turn the tide of battle in a pinch.

Another of Bloons TD 6’s strengths, along with its roster of quirky, personality-loaded characters, is the visual appeal of its aesthetic. At a glance, the identity of any monkey is obvious with its illustrative visuals. For instance, the Dart Monkey sports a headband with the Quick Shot upgrade that becomes a full-fledged cobbled-together costume of everyday clothes while they imitate their hero, Super Monkey, at the top-level Plasma Monkey Fan Club. Yes, that is as fearsome as it sounds, and it can pop even ceramic bloons.

Ah, yes, that’s right—impoppable bloons. Be wary of popoganda. No bloon is truly impoppable. The war against bloons is very real in this universe, and bloons come in deceptive, dangerous types. There are the basic enemy types: Speed improvements, multi-layer, camouflage and ceramic, as mentioned. Regrow bloons join the fray, as well as those that explode to release a dozen or so. Darts aren’t very effective against ceramic, but there are tower types that can address these without upgrades. There are also MOABs that resemble zeppelins, which can absorb hundreds of darts before exploding like a piñata with hundreds of bloons that you’ll have to reckon with.

Getting the sense of the sort of depth that Ninja Kiwi has brought to this genre? Bloons TD 6 has a modest price tag in its bid to stay afloat. After that, you might decide to purchase monkey money to increase your rate of acquiring Monkey Knowledge or Monkey Powers, which provides unique onetime-use towers that can, for instance, get water-bound towers floating when there’s not a drop to be seen on the map. You can spend the cash you earn on them or wait for the game to reward you during play. Insta-Monkeys are upgraded towers you’ll earn here and there with challenges.

The most important layer of strategy has to do with how you choose to play the game. Will you learn the system and min-max your way to victory ASAP? You might slow burn your way toward the top, earning achievements and rewards over a very long period of time. Speaking of options, of difficulty there are many: All provide Sandbox after all sub-challenges are completed. After completing Standard as the foundation for all difficulty types, you’ll get access to type limitations such as Primary, Military, or Magic only. Deflation gives you a high but fixed cash total with no ability to earn more. Can you survive all 60 rounds, starting at 31?

At higher difficulties, there is the Apopalypse to consider, wherein waves of Bloons give you no break and you can’t save. At the highest difficulty, you’ll be able to challenge Double HP MOABS, Half Cash, randomized bloons, Impoppable and CHIMPS. The latter mode strips you of all Monkey Knowledge Bonuses. Don’t worry; they’re not out of ideas yet. Odysseys place your hero and provide limited seating for your monkeys and towers on a three-island tower journey with specific rules. Finally, if you have the cash for it, you can unlock the map editing and share your creations with other avid commanders in the field.

I haven’t even gotten into the Races, Boss Bloons, Contested Territory 24-hour competition, seasonal events, unlockable trophies, game-wide unlockable mods, achievements…and, oh, what was I saying? Bloons TD 6 delivers everything it promises and doesn’t demand that you hand over all your free time. The only criticism I can leverage is that the music is not my idea of relaxing, so I always mute it and listen to something else. Perhaps if it had stronger, level related themes I’d be touting its competence. Without that, you’re listening to generic melodies that could belong to any family-friendly title.

Ninja Kiwi has quietly become one of the most successful Tower Defence game developers in the Wide World of Gaming, with charm aplenty and impoppable to fault variety and skill. Improving your strategic skills here will have a pop-on effect in the real world, as well. It’s certainly a plus that there’s no ill will toward anything that isn’t inflated rubber.

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hastypixels's avatar
Community review by hastypixels (April 23, 2024)

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