Crashing the Party

The PSN tower defense club has a new member, and Comet Crash is bringing something new to the shindig: offense.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: April 6, 2009
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I've used this comparison before (in our preview, actually), but it bears repeating: upstart developer Pelfast has tapped into a very specific kind of joy with their tower defense game, Comet Crash. The only way I can describe it is the "RTS rush" -- that feeling you get in a real-time strategy game where you spend a big chunk of time building up a huuuuuge swarm of units and then just point them, sight unseen, at the enemy base knowing they'll completely tear anything in their path to shreds because of sheer numbers alone.

It's the kind of giddy feeling you get watching semi-controlled chaos steamroll through a game that's normally built on specific rules -- the kind of rules that, say, a tower defense game has stuck to pretty much since they were first conceived as a simple little desktop app. While most of what San Francsico-based developer Pelsoft has done with their take on tower defense fits neatly into the same package, it's the few ways in which they've deviated that makes the game so interesting.

I've already tiptoed around it for the past two paragraphs, but the key difference is that you can finally stick it to that seemingly never-ending source of enemy aggression by returning the favor with absolutely ridiculous numbers of your own troops ("troops" in this case being a handful of different units that I'll get to in just a bit). By being able to essentially amass your hundreds-strong, snaking army of destruction, you're able to sort of fight battles on two fronts; the normal bit of carefully building up defenses to keep the waves of enemies at bay with specific towers, plus taking them on yourself by building the same attacking units.

Comet Crash handles this whole process with a surprising amount of tact, first introducing the units by way of the enemy, then gifting them to you if you can pass that level. Fortunately, buried under a simple press of the Start Button is a little tip that can help point the way to victory. Most of the time, they're no more complicated than "attack with tanks, defend with laser towers," but that's often all you need. The continual spoon feeding of not only new types of units but things like gates that will allow your units through but block the enemy's means you're almost always learning new ways to attack (the game even sports a few Trophies for creatively swapping out your units for the enemy's to create more direct routes into their home base).

None of what the game offers is terribly new, but it takes what's already been established and builds upon it with a solid foundation. Nowhere is this more appropriate than in the units you'll eventually come to command. It starts, not surprisingly, with towers meant to combat the near-constant stream of foes coming from the glowing red geodesic domes of the enemy base. They start with simple pea shooter turrets, but eventually expand to laser towers for taking down aircraft, lightning towers that dole out constant streams of damage, and more. Most of these are general purpose bits of defense, but like all good tower defense games, they can be upgraded to become absolute monsters (and look pretty cool while doing it).

A good defense is obviously one of the best ways to stay alive, but there's something to be said for sending out a few scouts from time to time to test the waters of the enemy's defense -- and by the way, those enemies can include up to three of your friends (though only locally; no online play here, unfortunately). Because there's an almost constant stream of new ways to attack and defend over the course of the game's almost 30 levels, it all stays rather fresh. Learning that the weird stove cover-looking bouncing plates are good against slowing incoming units means building those more advanced factories is just as important has having a bazillion turrets.
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