Tuesday, December 30th, 2008
As I was stepping on the plane for a holiday visit to San Diego, I went on the Apple App Store on my iPhone and downloaded the free game TapDefense. As a rule I generally do not expect much from free games, especially for the iPhone and just got the game because it was high on the popularity list and to waste some time on my four-hour flight. I was very surprised by how good this unassumingly named game was. The game itself is a tower defense strategy game that is surprisingly deep.
Your job is to defend the gates of heaven from 41 waves of invading demon hordes through the strategic placement of a variety of different defensive towers. There are three different difficulty levels in the game and the only difference (and it is an important one) between easy, medium and hard is the path the demons take to the gate. Easy mode’s path is very circuitous and the map provides a number of great choke points to place towers, while medium mode has fewer turns and a more direct path to the gate and hard mode is nearly a direct path. At the start of every level the player may place towers without the threat of the demons. The player may also pause the action in the game at any point and upgrade existing towers or place additional towers.
The Gameplay Mechanics
As I play games I am always analyzing the gameplay mechanics and boiling it down to a few tenants of game design that I believe the developers had in mind when creating the game. The game mechanics are designed to work in a certain way to encourage the player to play in a certain manner. Here are the two game design tenants that I see the game mechanics supporting.
1) The first tenant is that the player must strategically place towers and properly allocate resources.
How TapDefense accomplishes this is through the way the game gives money to the player by using compounding interest after each level is complete. At the end of each level the player receives interest on their remaining gold. The rate is 10% at the start of the game and can be raised to higher rates by spending Halos.
The interest rate game mechanic is an interesting one and certainly has its tradeoffs. The mechanic weights its punishment of mistakes made at the start of the game heavily, making it nearly impossible to recover during the later waves. Perfecting the opening is much more important than the ending. I call this feature out because it is exactly the opposite of what most game difficulty curves are like. In general mistakes at the later levels are punished more gravely than at the beginning.
In the end, I believe that it was a good choice because it furthers the design tenant by rewarding players who scrutinize their tower placement and to win each level with the minimum resources necessary. It also encourages replay value as players attempt to maximize their money totals.
2) The second game design tenant is that the player must utilize a variety of towers.
These game design tenants in TapDefense keep the gameplay interesting and varied. So based off of the design tenants the key to winning is the proper allocation of resources to maximize effectiveness and the use of a variety of towers.
I will list out the various towers the game has available. TapDefense begins with the player only having access to the Arrow Tower, Bomb Tower and Water Tower. Additional towers are unlocked through the use of Halos, which are earned at predetermined level intervals.
Problems I would like to see addressed in the game
1. Occasionally the game will stall and not load
2. Frame Rate Issues
3. The sell tower button is in the same spot as the pause button
4. No Undo
5. Add a level rewind feature
TapDefense is an ad-supported game and there are ads after every level played. They are small and out of the way though and really never bothered me. If we can have more high quality games like TapDefense made free through ads, I am all for it.
If you have an iPhone, you should download TapDefense. The gameplay is addictive and provided me with hours of entertainment. It is free so what have you got to lose?
See my other related articles also:
The iPhone 3G & AT&T Service Review
Become a Video Game Designer: Everything You Need to Know Part 1
10 Greatest Video Game Designers Part 1
Low Skill Cap and Luck (RNG) in World of Warcraft PVP
What Video Games Taught Me About Life
Roger Ebert is Right: Games are Not High Art…Yet
What’s Bad About Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Multiplayer Mode?
Dead Space Through the Eyes of a Game Designer
Call of Duty: World at War Through the Eyes of a Game Designer
Gears of War 2 Through the Eyes of a Game Designer
Best Games of All Time by Genre Part 1
8 of the Most Underrated or Overlooked Video Games of All Time
Pimps at Sea err I mean Age of Booty & Gen 13 Cosplay
My Student Films 2: EverQuest Documentary and Guilty Gear Isuka Trailer
Top 5 Greatest Moments in Competitive Gaming (eSports)
Best MMA Fights & Genki Sudo: Real Life Video Game Character
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