Radiant Defense: DIY Tower Defense

Tower defense can bridge the chasm between casual and hardcore gamers in a way that a lot of other iOS game genres can’t manage. They’re a great way for casual gamers to lose a few minutes tapping away while waiting in line at the bank, or they can be a real time sink for hardcore gamers whenever they play. Radiant Defense, with exciting, colorful graphics, flashy explosions, and a pumping soundtrack, is one of these universally appealing tower defense games.

Developer Hexage has been blasting out shiny, addicting games for iOS and other platforms for a few years now, and the release of Radiant Defense shows they haven’t been slacking. But in a genre flooded with apps, what makes this tower defense game the one to download?

Tower Defense Basics

The story of Radiant Defense begins when the Commander of an Earth defense force arrives on the scene. He and scientist “Doc” are charged with protecting the vortex between the aliens’ world and Earth. If too many aliens flood the vortex and the defenses are overrun, Earth’s coil that closes the vortex will be destroyed and Earth is destined for certain destruction. Heavy stuff.

The Commander reports in.

The Commander reports in.

If you’re familiar with tower defense mechanics, then you’re well-prepared for Radiant Defense. With the money you’re given at the beginning of a turn, or “wave,” you purchase turrets with different abilities, upgrading your turrets and adding to them as you progress. Occasionally the Commander or Doc will give you a hint between waves so you can prep for enemies with specialized defense systems. And they’re giving hints to those who’ve never played a tower defense before, too, advising on turret placement and when to upgrade weapons.

DIY Space Maze

Where Radiant Defense differs from many tower defense games is that it lets you plot the map. Using construction modules, the player designs the path the enemies take to the end point. The base map in a Radiant Defense level will usually offer the aliens a beeline to Earth’s coil. By strategically placing construction modules, you can force the aliens to take the longest route possible while setting up some great choke points when you start placing turrets.

A little nook has been built around the coil goal. Meanwhile, blue jelly aliens attack.

A little nook has been built around the coil goal. Meanwhile, blue jelly aliens attack.

The tutorial level takes you through all of these nuts and bolts, and you can return to the tutorial at any time if you didn’t quite get it or you just want to brush up on your skills. You’re also introduced to the three turrets that make up the core of your fighting force, at least for the first several levels. Clicking on the laser, the cannon, and the gun (or any weapon, for that matter) will give you more info on each turret’s strengths and weaknesses and a clue as to when to use each.

Pros and Cons of Freemium

Radiant Defense is a freemium game, so Hexage is making their money off of in-app turret upgrade purchases. Some of the most useful turrets are only available as packs that run $0.99. While Radiant Defense is 100-percent playable out of the box, some of the most entertaining armaments and absurd explosions are only available with upgraded weapons packs.

I found that as the enemies got increasingly harder and would flood my little outpost in greater numbers, my base weapons just weren’t as effective anymore. While I could have ground through those onslaughts of fluorescent jelly without upgrading, I found the game much more enjoyable with my $0.99 purchases.

A mission boss, surrounded by fluorescent weaponry.

A mission boss, surrounded by fluorescent weaponry.

The only flaw with Radiant Defense is the in-app purchasing system, though. The Commander and Doc will hint that a particular turret would be a great idea on the next wave, but they don’t let you know it’s a purchasable upgrade. I got slaughtered through several waves of enemies, thinking I just didn’t have enough game currency for the special weapon, when the reason it wasn’t appearing was because I hadn’t spent any real currency. Once I figured out what was missing, I had to pause in the middle of getting slammed by day-glo, cupcake-shaped aliens, choose the upgrade I wanted, and make the purchase. Usually by the time I’d figured out what I needed and how to get it, I was so far gone, I had to restart the entire mission.

Conclusion

While losing progress seems like a huge annoyance when it happens and may cause the occasional rage quit, when I finally came back to my iPhone after my little tantrum, the game was just as good, if not better for my upgrade purchases, and it took almost no time at all for me to get back to where I had been.

Radiant Defense’s technicolor graphics and pulsating enemies create a tiny, caricatured alien apocalypse future. The design of this game is integral to the enjoyment of the play, and it’s obvious the developers understood that and took it into account. Down to the slurping way the aliens move around the player-created maze, this is a well-executed app with all attention paid to making it fun to play and fun to look at.

This is a solid tower defense, with inventive game play, smashing graphics, and a terrific soundtrack. With the recent addition of Radiant Defense to their catalog of beautiful games, Hexage is looking to remain an indie developer at the forefront of iOS playables.


Summary

Inventive gameplay and eye-popping graphics make this a must-buy tower defense — In space!

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