Tag Archive: tower defense


Don’t let your guard down

Over the course of Star Fox’s history, whenever the decision is made to deviate from the space combat the series is known for, it’s often led to disaster. Even with Fox McCloud and gang being revered and lauded amongst Nintendo’s great original characters, when the Star Fox team steps out from their Arwings, it usually spells trouble for the series and a lack of fun to be had by gamers. Well, never one to be deterred, Nintendo has again tried to branch out and expand upon the Star Fox universe in the form of Star Fox Guard, and again it seems they’ve failed to create a compelling game.

Star Fox Guard sees players take on the role of a security guard at Corneria Precious Metals, Ltd. The company has been expanding exponentially to all corners of the galaxy due to war raging in the Lylat System, and so company owner Grippy Toad, uncle to famed Star Fox pilot and mechanic Slippy Toad, felt he needed more help. Players must use each security camera—conveniently equipped with a laser blaster—in every CPM facility to find and destroy the evil robots that want to disrupt the mining operations (by decimating each plant’s power core, thus bringing their metal output for the war effort to a halt). It’s not the deepest story, but you don’t really need a lot of setup when it comes to a tower defense game.

I typically enjoy the tower defense genre, having many in my collection ranging from South Park Let’s Go Tower Defense Play! to Ninjatown. However, I can say, without a doubt in my mind, that Star Fox Guard is one of the most shallow and downright boring tower defense games I’ve ever had to play.


Every level gives you a dozen cameras to place around each CPM facility in order to destroy all of the invading robots. Your TV acts as a sort of security monitor bank, with the screen broken into 13 segments—one for each camera along the edges, and a larger one in the middle signifying which one of the 12 you’re controlling at that given moment. Using the gamepad touch screen, you can switch from camera to camera, changing which one you control to better fend off incoming threats. And right here is where the problems start.

When first looking at Star Fox Guard, the controls appear downright simple. The analog sticks move the camera you’re controlling, and every other button on the controller fires the camera’s laser. The issues arise from the fact that you can only control one camera at a time, forcing you to look down at the Wii U GamePad in order to switch between them. Instead of giving us an easier option to rotate through the cameras, forcing us to use the GamePad leads to something I always despise when Wii U games make me do it: taking my eyes off the TV screen. During more frantic moments, when a half-dozen robots are rushing the facility core, looking down at the GamePad’s display and then back up—taking a second to re-focus your attention—is valuable time wasted in a tower defense game.

This also touches on the second issue with Star Fox Guard’s gameplay, and why it fails short as a tower defense game: the cameras aren’t automated whatsoever. The best tower defense games are meant to test your ability to strategically plan both before a match starts and on the fly. Star Fox Guard only tests your twitch reflexes as you bounce from GamePad to TV and vice versa, and from camera to camera. There is a minimal amount of strategy involved, since often the default placement of the cameras is the most strategically sound, and you’re given them all before each encounter. Some of the game’s challenge missions—extra levels with unique win conditions that make up half of the included 100 levels—get away from this, allowing you to slowly build your defenses up. Unfortunately, those mission types are few and far between.

Since there are only 12 cameras, there are also very limited upgrades. As you continue to successfully defend Grippy’s metal processing plants, you’ll level up your security clearance. At certain levels, you unlock a multi-shot cam, a freeze cam, and a slow-time cam. You only unlock one of each, however—so, at most, you’ll have nine regular cameras, and then three specialized ones. It adds a little bit of strategy, but not enough to really give the game the depth it so desperately needs.


Not everything about Star Fox Guard is a complete bust, though. The game offers up some challenge with the variety of enemies it throws at you. Fifteen types of enemy will mess with your cameras, including some that steal them away or knock them offline for an extended period. If the cameras are offline or gone, obvious holes can start to appear in your defense, which the remaining 11 enemy types will take advantage of. That’s 26 types of enemies total, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, making you wish even more you could do more with the cameras.

The other nice aspect of all those enemies is Star Fox Guard’s Squad Mode. Once you beat the first 20 or so stages, you unlock the game’s online component, which allows you to put together your own robot horde and send it after a buddies’ processing plant core, or reverse the situation to defend your own personal core from their army. Successful attacks and defenses increase your online rank, while losses will knock you down the leaderboards. As you face new enemies in single player, you’ll unlock them as options for your multiplayer horde, giving you at least one reason to grind through the game’s 100 lackluster and repetitive stages.

There’s a reason why Star Fox Guard is a free pack-in game bundled with the first run of physical copies of Star Fox Zero. It’s not a broken game, but there’s really not enough to grab your attention and hold it for more than a few levels. It’s a shallow cobbling together of tower defense parts that relies too much on the Wii U GamePad, one that doesn’t do anything interesting beyond Squad Mode. If you should tire of Star Fox Zero at some point, I could see you devoting a couple hours to it just because it was there if you get the physical version. On the other hand, if you’re going the digital route with Zero, there’s little reason for you to chip in and pick up Guard along with it.


Developer: Platinum Games, Nintendo EPD • Publisher: Nintendo • ESRB: E10+ – Everyone 10 and up • Release Date: 04.22.16

Every time Star Fox tries to do something out of its space-combat comfort zone it fails. Star Fox Guard sadly continues this tradition of games that make you go “meh” when Fox and the gang step away from their Arwing cockpits.

The Good There’s a lot to do and the online component adds some surprising replayability.
The Bad Shallow, repetitive tower defense play that relies too much on the Wii U GamePad screen.
The Ugly Slippy’s uncle is nothing but a war profiteer.
Star Fox Guard is a Wii U exclusive. Review code was provided by Nintendo for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.


When you think of virtual reality, you probably think of immersing yourself so deeply in a game you could almost leave the world you exist in behind. But when Oculus VR releases at the end of March, one of its least-involving launch titles may also be one of its most fun. While at the annual DICE Summit last week in Las Vegas, I had a chance to sit down and go hands-on with the Oculus port of Defense Grid 2.

Now, a port of a 2014 tower defense game may not sound like the most thrilling use of VR, but what Defense Grid 2 lacks in bombastic action, it makes up for in allowing players to focus on the task at hand and bringing them closer to the game like never before. After placing the retail Oculus headset over my eyes and grabbing the Xbox One controller, instead of feeling like I was in an alternate reality, I felt like I was lording over an elaborate playset, able to see the entirety of the level at once in what has become known as “God view.” If I wanted to look at the level from a different angle, I could simply get up and walk around, or slide my chair into a different position. Sure, when turning my head and craning my body, the hotel room around me had changed into what looked like a sci-fi boiler room, effectively placing me in the game like all other VR experiences. The core gameplay of Defense Grid 2, however, had remained entirely the same.

By using my sightline as a surprisingly intuitive cursor, and the controller to then interact with what I was seeing and to select options, I could perform the same actions I would in the console and PC versions of the game. I placed and upgraded towers of varying purpose as I saw fit all along the set, trying to protect a collection of power cores that invading waves of aliens wanted for their own nefarious purposes. With the Oculus headset closing me off from the outside world, I was able to sit down, concentrate, and plan out winning strategies with the greatest of ease.


The Oculus version of Defense Grid 2 isn’t just a straight port, though, and does feature some upgrades over the console and PC original. A handful of new challenge levels have been incorporated to further lengthen the experience. Each level also has five collectibles on them, which often require you to get in close to the playset and peer around every corner before using the controller to snatch them up. As well, many levels now feature special interactive elements—some are for cosmetic purposes, while others can actually change the layout of the map.

The biggest addition, however, may be the ability to jump into any individual tower and change the game’s perspective in an instant. Although not as intuitive for implementing strategies as one might hope due to the limited range of sight, this view provides a front row seat for all the fighting once your towers have been placed to your satisfaction. Seeing the detail of the aliens and the world up close is actually kind of breathtaking, giving you a sense for that over-the-top action you may still be craving in VR.

With Defense Grid 2 acting as one of the Oculus’ launch titles, it also serves the important purpose of offering us another way to enjoy virtual reality. It shows that various game genres that might not leap off the page as obvious choices can work just as well, if not better, in VR, and that creating immersion doesn’t necessarily mean putting you squarely in the shoes of a hero character and building a new world around you. Now, it’s just a matter of seeing if the install base for Oculus will be there to take advantage of this fun, re-imagined experience.