Platform: PC (reviewed, £6.99) | iPad version in development
Developer: Lightmare Studio
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Aliens are out to steal our cows and it's up to us to defend them. With towers.
Beyond its B-Movie premise, Beware Planet Earth! initially appears to be a friendly if incredibly generic tower defence title. As adorable martians trundle along their preset paths with bovine abduction on their minds, we'll place a small selection of static turrets to halt their advance. Some deal direct damage. Others slow or debilitate the hordes. Our war economy is fuelled by currency dispensing machines that create a cog every few seconds, which we have to click to redeem -- thus adding a hectic resource collection minigame to the proceedings -- but otherwise it definitely feels like a retread of very old ground.
Stick with it, though, and Beware Planet Earth! might just surprise you.
After the first few tutorial levels introduce the very familiar basics (place towers, click on cogs, win), the extraterrestrial invaders start to roll out tougher troops and more nuanced combatants: some of whom are shielded, disguised, exceptionally fast or are capable of shielding their comrades. As such you'll have to rely on clever tower placement to quell their attack, while a selection of more thoughtful defences such as slow-to-deploy land mines (and helicowpters - yes!) challenge us to perfectly time our defences. The once-simple action soon becomes surprisingly intense, yet cuddly and cheerful enough to keep your blood pressure down.
A laser gun adds an exciting new twist to the formula, allowing you to deal direct damage on the approaching aliens by clicking on them, at the cost of limited replenishing power reserves. What first appears to be a very simplistic feature quickly earns its keep, since you'll have to zap disguised aliens to allow your turrets to lock on, or blast through force fields before protected aliens escape with one of your valuable cows. It's a surprisingly tactical wrinkle that remains relevant throughout the game.
Once you've learned the ropes, activating 'Veteran' mode ups the ante considerable, while new layouts and impressive enemy variety keeps things fresh. Beware Planet Earth! may not be a revolution, but it's polished, enjoyable and capable enough to stand out from the glut of TD titles on the marketplace.
At least, that's what I'd like to say. So I will, with one important caveat.
Beware Planet Earth! may not be a revolution, but it's polished, enjoyable and capable enough to stand out from the glut of TD titles on the marketplace... and will feel much more at home on a tablet.
An iPad version is already in the works, and I suspect that Lightmare Studios originally intended it to be a touchscreen game. All the signs are there, from the locked resolution and aspect ratio (perfect for a tablet screen, but bookended with black bars on a monitor), single-screen levels, an annoying lack of keyboard shortcuts and the fact that you'll have to click, click, click, click, click and click on absolutely everything - as opposed to having your zapper mapped to a specific key or mouse button, for example. There's just so much clicking, and it'd clearly feel much more intuitive on a large capacitive display, with all the large friendly icons already in place.
On PC, it feels like you're playing the development build of an iPad game; a fun and enjoyable one, but a game that nonetheless feels like it yearns to be poked and prodded. £6.99 may be just about fair enough considering extra Steam content and the quality on offer, but frankly, I'd wait for it to release on the device it's tailor-made for.
- Capable, balanced and varied tower defence
- Zapper provides a surprisingly tactical new quirk, lets you get your hands dirty
- Clean, uncluttered and adorable visuals
- Doesn't add much to the traditional TD formula
- Will feel infinitely more intuitive and comfortable on iPad; lacks shortcuts and standard PC options
- Click click click click click
The Short Version: Beware Planet Earth! makes a generic first impression, but quickly reveals hidden depths, undeniable quality and interesting wrinkles that help it stand out from the tower defence crowd on PC. I'd strongly recommend waiting for the iPad version if you can, though, since it's tailor-made for touchscreens rather than mice. Your fingers and wrist will thank you.