Tower defense is one of my favorite genres because of its versatility. There are so many variations between TD games, from the wholesome simplicity geoDefense to the undying awesomeness of Plants vs. Zombies. Sometimes developers even combine tower defense with action games, allowing players to run around the field attacking enemies in addition to the strategic planting of towers. Zombie Attack 2 did just that a couple of years ago, although somehow the game still ended up a big, stinking pile of boring.
Vampire Rush, a former Nokia exclusive Xbox game for Windows Phone comes from Chillingo and Lithuanian developer A-Steroids. While it doesn’t quite achieve its full potential, Vampire Rush does manage to provide the right blend of strategy and excitement that Zombie Attack 2 so woefully lacked. Read on for our full review!
Vampires don’t sparkle
Vampire Rush stars a dapper, swashbuckling gent named Captain Greg. Set a couple of hundred years in the past, a peaceful land is besieged by armies of vampires and other dark creatures. Greg is literally the only man standing between those ne’er-do-wells and the defeat of mankind. Unfortunately, the game lacks a proper introduction or ending. But despite the conspicuous lack of story and relatively simplistic 3D graphics, Rush still manages an appealing, half cute/half dark atmosphere.
Save the gates!
This game consists of seven unique levels, each with 10 waves of enemies to defeat. Besides killing all the beasties, Greg’s objective is to protect the level’s gate from harm. Gates can take a little damage, but if left unprotected, the monsters will eventually get through and you’ll fail the level. A mini-map at the top of the screen shows the positions of enemies, towers, and items throughout the level. Tapping the mini-map reveals a more detailed one in case you need to get the lay of the land.
The good Cap'n controls quite smoothly thanks to a flawless virtual stick on the left side of the screen. On the right, you’ll find a sword button. Tapping the button rapidly performs one kind of sword combo, while holding it (my preference) does another. Swing the stick around in a circle while attacking and you’ll pull of a special move and get an Achievement, though I rarely used the special after that.
If Greg takes too much damage, he gets knocked out for a few seconds. Each time this happens, the respawn timer grows longer, so staying alive (as with real life) is usually for the best. Stronger red enemies can take Greg down in just a few hits and the game doesn’t give a visual or audio indicator that he’s taking damage (other than the life meter), so Greg will often get knocked out with little warning. A sound effect or some other warning would’ve helped.
Upgrades and towers
Greg can replenish his health by picking up healing items that pawn throughout the level. Other power-ups include explosives and money chests. Gold collected from chests and enemies can also be spent on character upgrades such as a healing ability or increased attack or defense. These upgrades only last throughout the level though.
Instead of upgrades, I put most or all of my coinage into buying towers. Towers take no damage from enemies, making them an especially good investment. At first you’ll only have access to two tower types, but a few levels in you’ll get to use all four kinds:
- Arrows: Fast and affordable shots that attack a single target
- Garlic: Expensive but does splash damage
- Electricity: Damages all enemies within its radius. Easily the best tower in the game.
- Holy: Slows enemies within its radius. Expensive but useful when surrounded by damage dealing towers.
Each new tower of the same type costs a bit more to build. Existing towers can be upgraded or sold. Upgrades cost less than building a second tower of the same type, which provides a nice balance. Also, towers can’t be placed too closely together, so you won’t be creating mazes of death for the enemies. The need to spread towers out somewhat encourages players to take an active role in combat, so I didn’t mind it too much.
Forces of evil
Greg battles more than just vampires over the course of the game. Enemies include:
- Zombie villagers
- Chinese vampires
- Dark lords
Each comes in three colors: green, yellow, and red. Red enemies can dish and take far more damage than others, so Greg will often have to let his towers take them down.
Graphics and sound
Vampire Rush originated as a 2010 Bada game, and its 3D visuals are starting to show their age. Greg and the various monsters are all constructed of very simple geometry. But Windows Phone 7 isn’t exactly a 3D power house, so the slightly antiquated look still works out. Plus it’s prettier than crusty old Zombie Attack 2!
Musically the game fares much better. For one thing, it actually HAS music (another dig at Zombie Attack 2, mwa ha ha). The rousing and adventurous score really adds to the game’s pace and mood. Greg also utters a few amusing voice samples now and then.
Survival sucked away
Chillingo games on Windows Phone tend to either lack some of their iOS versions’ content OR include bonus content. Rush falls into the former category since Survival mode, which the iOS game included at launch in 2011, is missing here. Given that this version costs three times more than the iOS game, that exclusion leaves us with a slightly anemic game. Seven levels is already kind of miserly; tower defense stages don’t take THAT much energy to produce, after all.
Update: Survival mode has been added to the game!
Pictured: Red Dark lords
You’ll earn most of Rush’s Achievements within an hour or two. Annoyingly, there is no Achievement for beating the final level. Combined with the lack of an ending cinematic, that makes for a big anticlimax.
On the other hand, the game does have three grindy Achievements which take much longer to unlock: play for 20 hours, kill 10,000 monsters, and collect 100,000 gold. With only seven levels to play, the content starts to spread thin before players hit the 20 hour mark, but at least the core gameplay is fun.
Note that two Achievements are currently glitched: ‘Gorgeous Greg’ (survive a hit from a Red Dark lord) and ‘Rich and Famous’ (earn 100,000 gold). A-Steroids has promised to fix them with an update, so don’t be too put off. That said, I’d recommend holding off on the other grinding Achievements until ‘Rich and Famous’ gets fixed, just in case it doesn’t automatically unlock after the patch.
Update: 'Gorgeous Greg' has been fixed, but 'Rich and Famous' has not.
Vampire Rush is low on frills, but high on thrills. More levels and enemy types would have provided a lot more staying power. Still, the seven levels, two difficulty levels, and Survival Mode here are lots of fun while they last. Although strategy and action genres rarely mix, Vampire Rush proves the results can be engaging. Players who don’t mind the Achievement situation would do well to give this one a try.
- Vampire Rush - Windows Phone 7 and 8 - 99 MB - $2.99 - Store Link
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