As evidenced by a flood of Flash-based titles in the last year or so, tower defense games are all the rage. Now, iWin is throwing its hat in the ring with Garden Defense, a full-blown downloadable tower defense game where you save your garden using gnomes, flamingos, cupid statues and a host of plants to fight off waves of attacking bugs. It's eat or be eaten in this easy to learn but surprisingly challenging strategy game.
The basic set-up of Garden Defense is similar to most tower defense games. Each stage has a winding path where off-screen enemies will eventually walk. Using a limited budget you must purchase, place and upgrade a variety of "towers" (plants and garden gadgets, in this case) to attack enemies as they pass by. As soon as you have the stage set, click "ready" at the bottom of the screen to unleash the bugs. As they march through the garden your faithful soldiers will attack. The more bugs you destroy the more cash you earn to upgrade and buy more defenses.
Enemies come in all manner of entomological sizes and shapes, including butterflies, beetles, flies, even snails and centipedes. Each tower has a specific purpose and can deal with bugs in a different manner. For example, gadget-type towers such as gnomes and flamingos have the advantage of being mobile. After they attack the enemy out of the gates, simply pick them up and move them down the path for another round of combat. Other units such as the nightbell flower attack groups of enemies, while the cactus is specially adapted to take out airborne enemies.
In addition to purchasing more units, cash you earn from defeating bugs can also be used to upgrade existing towers. Higher-level units deal more damage, fire faster, and often have a greater range of attack. Sometimes an upgraded tower is a smarter purchase than a second, low-level one, but balancing between the two is part of each player's strategy.
After a few levels of bug smashing you'll gain access to the lab, a place to spend skill points (automatically awarded after each stage based on your performance) to boost groups of statistics. Here, you can buy upgrades that power-up all plant units to deal 25% more damage, decrease the time it takes for gadgets to reload after you move them, and much, much more. The lab is what makes Garden Defense really interesting and allows for a deep level of customization. And you'll need it, too, as the game gets much harder as the stages go by.
In addition to the main game, Garden Defense comes with a number of just-for-fun extras, and as you play you'll also unlock a number of challenge levels. This, along with over 100 waves of enemies to dispatch, will give you several hours of garden-related carnage to enjoy.
Analysis: I enjoy tower defense games now and then, mostly just to dive in, destroy some dirty creeps, then feel all superior because I can upgrade my weapons and cause even more destruction. Garden Defense didn't immediately strike me as a serious contender for the tower defense crown, but as soon as I started placing gnomes and spitting sunflowers, I was throughly hooked. Even though it doesn't put on the same dour facade as most TD games, Garden Defense manages to pack a lot of customization and strategy into a pleasing (and easy-to-learn) package. iWin didn't skimp in the sound and visuals department, either. Music throughout the game is light-hearted and catchy, while the graphics are crisp, colorful and easy on the eyes. The game's story is told through a series of animated cut scenes complete with voice narration.
The most dangerous thing about Garden Defense is its playability. It's good in short spurts, it's great for marathon sit-downs. It's more robust than many Flash tower defense games, but it's also more accessible and doesn't take itself so seriously. With that slight edge of humor and brilliant production values, Garden Defense can woo just about any gamer.