Review: Lonely Turret for the BlackBerry PlayBook (Revisited)

A while back, Jay wrote a Lonely Turret review and a follow up.  However, these were written before he could play the game; I thought I’d give it a revisit, now that the PB has been released and the game itself has received some initial updates. (Based on conversations with the developer, more are coming). Without further ado…

Lonely Turret is a tower defender with a twist.  I’ve been playing defender games for a while now, and there are some ideas in here that are unique to my experience.  The game play starts out ridiculously easy – but as you advance, it begins to seem impossibly hard.  I can’t count the number of times I looked at a new level for the first time and said [sometimes out loud], “Are you insane? There’s no f—ing way!”   Of course, there is a way – every level can be beaten, and most in multiple ways.

The basics are the same: you’re outnumbered, facing swarms of enemies hell bent on destroying your base.   The number of different turrets available to you increases as  you progress in levels  – you start with one turret available; and progress to ten.  If you  replay a lower level, you’re restricted to the specific turrets available for that level.  There are a total of nine different enemy types – and in the final 25 levels of the game, they can come at you in brutal combinations.

But Lonely Turret adds in a combination of unusual gameplay components, making the experience unique as a whole.

Instead of having to guard various exits, you’ll find that your base is at the center of the screen.  Enemies can (and do) come in from all edges of the screen depending on the level layout.  They will home in on your base and arrive there quicker than you might expect.

Some ships are immune to specific turret types. In addition, you’ll often find that you don’t have enough energy to get the ideal turret for a situation, and so must make do.  Different terrain types impose their own restrictions on turret usage.    You can move your turrets. Indeed, to win many levels, you must move your turrets as a critical part of a winning strategy.

Unlike other tower defenders, Lonely Turret allows you to place a gun in  a location that will block all possible paths to your base.    It’s up to you to avoid it – if you don’t, the enemy ships will all home in unerringly on your base, bypassing all obstacles.

My favorite aspect of Lonely Turret – and what really sets it apart – is the amount of strategy required.   At its most basic, tower defender strategy is simple: figure out the enemy paths, and pile up enough guns between them and you so that they die before reaching you.  Lonely Turret adds several  new dimensions to this.   Sometimes you won’t have the energy needed to purchase the best turrets; often there are simply many more enemies than guns.   Terrain is a factor too.   These elements come together in a way that (for most levels) requires a fair bit of thought in order to find a winning strategy. Not to mention quick fingers…

The Good:

  • Strategy: Lonely Turret requires thought and calculation to win – the strategy goes beyond finding the most efficient way to apply brute force.
  • Three different victory types: no star, silver star, and gold star.  You will find that in many cases, completely different tactics are needed for a different type of victory on a given level.
  • Most levels have multiple paths to victory; though of course as you try for completion at silver and gold levels, the number of viable options decreases.
  • You can move turrets after placing them, and this is a critical element of strategy.
  • Swarming when blocked: Okay, I’ll admit it – this is annoying, but it also makes the game more challenging.  You have to pay attention to the placement of your guns; accidentally blocking all paths and not realizing it soon enough can  quickly spell the end.  (This gets especially frustrating when you think you’re in the home stretch for a particular level… )
  • Terrain types: instead of being able to simply place or not place a turret,  some terrain allows enemies and your weapon fire to traverse them, but disallows you from placing guns.  Even more challenging is the terrain that allows your enemy free passage, but blocks both your weapon fire and turret placement.
  • Replayable.  I found that the first time through, I was barely able to scrape by many levels – achieving a scattering of gold stars, many silver stars, and too many no-star victories.
  • Interface: the touch screen interface is simple and intuitive.  You drag turrets onto the screen; and to move them you simply drag them elsewhere.
  • “Go For Gold” mode – to achieve a gold star victory, you have to defeat a level without taking any damage.  The “go for gold” mode automatically resets the level as soon as your base takes damage.   Not for the faint of heart, but appreciated when you’re ready to try winning gold on all levels. It saves in frustration when you take a miniscule amount of unnoticed damage early in the level, only to have to get all the way to the end to find out about it.
  • The developer is actively fixing bugs and improving the game.   I was fortunate enough to play an unreleased version recently, and it includes some minor features that improve performance and playability, in addition to several bug fixes.

The Bad

There are  a few bugs still outstanding. Most have been fixed already, and will be available soon via AppWorld – none are gamebreakers (I was able to achieve “gold” victory on all levels with the version currently in AppWorld), and definitely not a reason to hold off on purchasing the game.

  • Pathing error: every once in a while, your enemies incorrectly think you have blocked all paths to base, and swarm in.    It happens pretty rarely, but it’s annoying when it does.   The trick here is usually to move the turret you last moved again, but it often takes a critical second before you realize what happened.  The developer is aware of this and is working on a fix.
  • Some levels can run slowly especially when you have a lot of turrets and enemies on the screen at the same time.  This is improved in the next update, which will be available as soon as it gets through the Appworld approval process.
  • The current version on AppWorld does not give an indicator when you’re going to drop a turret in an invalid location.  On the fast-paced levels it can get frustrating, leading to accidental drops in the wrong place – causing a critical shot to get missed.  This has already been fixed and will be available soon via AppWorld;
  • Not a bug, but I’d love to see multitouch support allowing you to manipulate a turret in each hand…
  • I got a nice “congrats, you got all the gold” screen when completing all 25 levels of the first galaxy with a gold victory, but didn’t see it for the others; nor one when I completed the entire game with gold victories.  Not at all a big deal, but it would’ve been nice.

The Both

I am not sure if I want to put this in the Good or the Bad section, as it really depends on your preferences – so I made a new section just for this comment.  The outcome of games is influenced – just a bit – by the specific locations enemies show up, and how closely clustered together they are.  These are partially random.

To the good: This mimics a “real life” battle – chance does play a factor in combat.  It’s entirely possible to lose a battle based on something being slightly out of position, or enemies clustering when you expected them to spread out.

To the bad: Because the random changes are relatively minor, you’ll find you still stick with the same basic tactics for winning — it’s just that those tactics will fail some of the time. They’re not significant enough to require you to work around them, because you know if you run the level again, you’ll probably not have the same scenario.

On the whole, I count this towards “The Good” but it really depends on your own preferences and style of play.

The Verdict

Lonely Turret is the best tower defender currently available on the PlayBook.  It makes use of the full screen, contains many levels and has plenty of replay-ability (especially if you just have to get the gold star victory for each level).

It’s definitely worth the hard-earned $0.99 to get this game.  If you like tower defenders, it will provide you with many hours of entertainment.   If you’re on the fence, why not check out the “lite” version? It offers a subset of levels, exposing y0u to the different turret and enemy types.    (Note: I did not find the lite version challenging, but I think that was because I had played through most of the full game first – and so had some idea of which strategies to use on any given level. )

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