Having already brought to you Richard’s thoughts on X-Morph Defense and European Assault, it was my turn to attack the Earth and strip it for resources as part of an alien invasion. Designed as both a twin-stick shooter and a tower defense, there’s enough to love here for fans of both genres as the marriage is close to a perfect one.
X-Morph is a lot of fun. As mentioned, on one hand you have the twin-stick shooter elements that let you fly around the map and shoot at the Earth’s Defense Forces. Where the real twin-stick elements come out to play is that while the ground forces are forced to take specific paths, the air force isn’t and they will come after you regardless of where you’re flying. So as long as you’re flying in a corporeal form, as you can go incorporeal to move faster and place defenses, you’ll have to dodge enemy attacks and shoot them down before they shoot you down.
For the ground forces, you’ll have two options to deal with them. The first is the same as above with flying around and shooting at them. Often though, this won’t be entirely possible because you’ve got the air force on your tail. So the other hand of X-Morph shines in these cases as you get to place turrets down along the predicted paths of your enemies forces. What I truly appreciated with this is that X-Morph isn’t “picky” as to where you get to place your towers.
A lot of Tower Defenses will force you into putting your towers where the developers wanted you to put them. Yes that creates its own challenge but sometimes it’s not exactly the best designed. Other times, you can put them wherever you want and that alone is its own challenge as there’s a steeper learning curve as to where things go. X-Morph falls into the second of these however it takes it a step further and it allows you to link two basic towers together into an electric fence in order to make the ground forces make detours around other paths or even merge wholly different attack groups into one. This means there’s no “right” way to do it. This means that you get to decide what actually works in practice as there’s only one condition to this. The enemy MUST have a pathway to their target. Only one, but they must have one.
As you complete stages, you’ll get access to upgrade both your placed towers and your ship that you fly around in. The ship itself, starts off with a set of lasers that will equally hit both the ground and the air being just as effective against one as it is the other. As you purchase upgrades however, you get get missiles to fend off the fighter jets and mortars to destroy the more powerful ground forces. New sets of lasers are also a possibility. Each of these weapon choices can be swapped through on the fly which makes for some fairly impressive and robust gameplay as you are only ever at a disadvantage for as long as you want to be.
For your towers, instead of having to worry about which one you place and where it should be placed in relation to another one, you simply put down the most basic tower first and then worry about the rest after that. Every advanced tower comes out of the basic one meaning that you never need to worry about which tower should be placed above another. Do you want an anti-air beside a heavy mortar shell tower? Then build two basic ones and then upgrade them. Don’t like where you’ve put them? This had to be my favorite feature and possibly one of my biggest gripes with Tower Defenses in general. YOU COULD MOVE THEM.
Towers, if you don’t like where they’ve been put, you can move them. This alone was a major feature that so, so many others, could learn from. Piggybacking on the moving feature is the ability to downgrade towers. If a particular tower type wasn’t working out in the area that you placed it? Down it back down to a regular tower and then re-upgrade it. You don’t lose the materials that were spent as when you downgrade, the materials simply come back to you.
Now even with all of these features, X-Morph isn’t “easy”. It’s fairly easy to lose even on normal if you aren’t paying attention because during each wave of enemy attacks, everything is in motion and there’s no time to zone out. You’ll either be firing at the enemy or being fire at while also worrying if your placed towers are doing their jobs while simultaneously worrying about whether or not the air force is closing in, and if so, how many of them are doing so. There’s so much going on that often I found that playing in handheld mode, while fun, was a bit too much because it’s hard to see everything on the smaller screen. That said, it’s still performs as smoothly in your hands as it does in the cradle hooked up to the TV.
With both story modes and survival modes ready to go, perhaps my most favorite of the features were the boss fights. These fights brought out the Shoot ‘Em Up and Bullet Hell elements over to the Twin-Stick gameplay. Bosses are big, they are bad, and they are powerful often being able to destroy your ship within seconds if you aren’t fast enough or smart enough to take cover behind a stupidly tall building in the city that you are trying to conquer. At least when you die, the most you lose is time. There’s no real penalty for dying other than the time that you are not on the field of battle protecting your terraformer against the waves and waves of enemy soldiers.