There are a few things in life that I just can't get enough of. Meat pizza, dark chocolate, Mystery Science Theater 3000, and Harry Potter just to name a few. In the gaming realm, Tower Defense is one genre I can't get enough of and I've played quite a few, some good, some bad. Silver Maze is one that I can safely place in the "good" category. While it may seem on the surface a simple TD entry, the complexities soon make themselves evident.
Silver Maze starts out life as a tower defense game with but four towers to choose from. The gun tower is your standard single-shot gun. The minigun tower shoots bursts of bullets, but must cool down in-between firings. Canon towers don't deal much damage, but they deal it over multiple units. Finally, the laser tower has the largest range of all the weapons, while dealing about the same damage as the gun tower. Tower placement is critical to success.
Where the weapons seem to lack in variety, the creatures make up for it. Nine different enemy units will come slowly crawling your way during the levels of the game. Things start off simple with basic enemies that don't have any special abilities and standard hit points (HP). Soon you will be faced with a variety of different enemies. Some will come in large groups of small creatures. Others will come as behemoth single entities that will take the combined forces of all of your towers to eventually take out. If it seems that these enemies might become too much for your towers to take on, you'd be right.
Luckily, Silver Maze includes an extensive upgrade system. Besides the standard tower upgrades that increase throughout the game, there are a number of special upgrades that can be done to each tower. One of four enchantments can be placed on a tower, with different effects. Ice will temporarily slow enemies down each time they are hit with the enchanted weapon. Lightning will add an area effect to any weapon it is placed on. Fire will set enemies ablaze, doing further damage after they have been initially hit with the enchanted weapon. The shadow enchantment makes enemies explode when they expire, causing damage to surrounding enemy units.
The most unique of the upgrades is the combine. This unique ability allows you to combine the abilities of two towers to make a different, much more powerful tower. At first, you are only allowed to combine a tower with another of the same type. This creates a super-powered version of the tower, but keeps the abilities the same. Later in the game, you will be able to combine towers of different types, creating a tower that combines the abilities of each tower into a new type of tower. The results can be absolutely devastating, and they'll need to be, because the enemy keeps marching on.
Analysis: What points Silver Maze may loose in graphic prowess, it gains back two-fold in strategy and planning. The designs for the weapons are very simple, but the animation is smooth and detailed. The enemies are simple circles with a variety of animated markings that, along with their size, help to identify each enemy type. Each level is, as the title suggests, silver in appearance, with a variety of path placements, from simple snaking paths to paths that cross over themselves multiple times. While there is often an "optimal" solution for each level, there is enough room for experimentation and planning to make later levels good for coming back to and trying again.
The presentation of the game ramps up the difficulty nice and slowly, introducing gameplay elements one by one over the course of a number of levels. Instead of bombarding the player with all the features of the game at once, this gives the player a chance to get used to each feature as it is introduced. It also means that you will have to survive quite a long time to achieve some of the cooler features of the game as they are slowly unlocked. It definitely keeps you playing. And, if you want more time to experiment with any of the game features that you have unlocked, you can always play in a sandbox mode. This is a large, twisting maze of a level in which you are given an excessive amount of money to spend on weapons, and can launch waves of different enemies at the push of a button. It's a great way to test strategies for certain weapons or in taking out certain types of enemies. It's also fun to load the level up with guns and see what happens!
Sound effects consist of your standard booms and bangs, and are okay, but could have been much bigger and bombastic. The music on the other hand is very well done, and suits the game style perfectly. I never once felt the need to turn it off and listen to iTunes, as in so many other games. It could easily stand on its own as a video game soundtrack meant for listening outside the game. It's that good.
Taking a few cues from other TD games such as Gemcraft, Silver Maze contains the perfect system for beginners while being challenging enough for expert TD gamers. While it's not the flashiest game on the block, its tower upgrade system more than makes up for it, and brings it to another level of awesomeness. Definitely give this one a try.