Review: Creature Defense (Sony PSP)

Creature Defense
Genre: Tower Defense
Developer: Hudson Entertainment
Publisher: Hudson Entertainment
Release Date: 11/04/2009

I enjoy a nice tower defense game every once in a while, but with access to the Internet, at the same time, it’s kind of spoiled me in regard to the genre. When you jump on the Internet, you can find a massive number of free tower defense games just waiting for someone to give them a tender click of the mouse. So whenever a tower defense game would land on a console or handheld, a price of $20 or more would usually equate to sticker shock. Fortunately, Hudson Entertainment looked to do something a little different with the genre by mixing the tower defense genre with a card management scheme and for the first time, I paid attention to a handheld tower defense game. By tossing in a fantasy element akin to what people might see in Magic: The Gathering, Creature Defense creates a unique identity for itself, but fans of tower defense games will be pleased to know the title didn’t mess around with what makes the genre fun.

As far as I could tell, there is no official story for Creature Defense, which given the rich fantasy tone of the title is a slight disappointment, but, then again, I could easily rattle off a good handful of great tower defense games that also have no rhyme or reason. Regardless, it is always kind of nice to know why waves of baddies are attacking your tower (which, conveniently in most these titles you never even get to see) and why the player can summon defense creatures – it isn’t necessary, but it certainly would have enriched the experience. As such, most of this review’s attention will be placed on the title’s modes of play and variety.

There are no real discernible game modes, per say, instead, the title features a single mode that thrusts players onto an overhead parchment map that features all available environments as well as the game’s shop. Each environment obviously places players into new territories and how the enemies attempt to storm your tower, however, each environment also comes packed with multiple phases (differing the order and frequency of the monster types that spawn in each wave) and an eventual time attack mode. Players do also have access to deck editors, help menus and more, but as a whole, there is only one game mode in the entire game, which, if you’re picking up a tower defense game, though, you’re probably expecting nothing more than the straight-forward strategy provided in Creature Defense. Even though there is a lack of variety, the title does provide a lot of scope in its offerings and tower defense and card management fans will find it hard to be disappointed in Creature Defense‘s offerings.

While the mechanics are sound in the title, Creature Defense‘s presentation isn’t necessarily strong. None of it will make the title less fun and addictive, however, it is entirely noticeable if you are paying attention to everything involved. The visuals get high marks outside of the gameplay as the menus are all very clean and well-organized and by accessing a creature’s stats, players are shown large hand-drawn fantasy artwork that will no doubt please anyone into that style. During gameplay, however, players won’t be treated to heavy details in the visuals, with muddy, pre-rendered environments, low animation and somewhat fuzzy visuals. Nothing is so bad that players won’t be able to tell what is going on and, thankfully, the monster paths are displayed very clearly, but everything else is as average as can be. The graphics do have their highlights, though, which is more than what I can say about the generic audio. While nothing is painfully bad to the ears, the game’s quiet music is easily lost in the action and Creature Defense is full of generic magic sound effects that the player will hear over and over. If there were a few more various sound effects and some more urgency to the music, everything would come across a lot better for the audio.

While a mouse is easily the most intuitive means of controlling a tower defense game, there are thankfully no real issues in navigating the terrain and placing your creatures in Creature Defense. The square button handles the zooming of the playfield, the X button allows players to place a creature and confirm selections and the triangle button toggles active creatures in order to level them up or sell them back for mana, while the shoulder buttons cycles through options to slow down or speed up the gameplay. That is simply all there is to controlling the game and the simplicity makes the format work on the handheld scene and anyone that has touched a tower defense game should feel right at home with Creature Defense.

However, there are a few mechanics that shake things up and insert even more strategy into the genre as opposed to a standard tower defense game. These obviously come in the form of the roughly 50 cards players can collect to cast creatures out into the playfield. However, the catch is players can only bring five of these creatures into each phase. When you consider that each creature has an elemental infinity and each one of these has a weakness, you’ll start to see where the strategy comes in to play. Flying enemies that can only be destroyed by items suitable to attack in the air also make their way into the title, but it goes further than this when you have to prepare fire element creatures that do heavy damage to the forest element. While players start off with a meager span of cards, by slaying a suitable number of baddies, that enemy is added to the card shop for the players to shuffle in stronger and varying creatures into their decks.

What this will mean for most players is eventually during a phase, a poor choice of cards can really haunt players as each phase consists of 50 waves and once the player settles on a deck, they have to use it for the duration of the phase. Players may get well into a phase to find out they are not prepared to battle a flying water element monster, causing them to rethink their strategy. Strategy is the key in Creature Defense because even though you might place in a creature more suitable for fighting off the flying water elements, you may end up replacing a card that is necessary for another wave in the game. As such, the title is equal parts strategy and management, and each lends itself to the game incredibly well. Dedicated players will become quickly addicted to the title and given the title’s challenging nature, the payoff is extremely rewarding for players that can tackle some of the game’s stages.

Even though players can dive through the handful of environments relatively quickly, there is a lot to go back and accomplish. Players can revisit levels after picking up stronger creatures to improve their scores or to more effectively battle powerful enemies to add them to their card store. Eventually, players will also unlock new phases with different sets of waves to challenge players and completists will want to own every single card in the game. Tower defense players looking for a more challenging outlet might be able to find it in Creature Defense as the game doesn’t really hold players’ hands at all, starting out moderately tough and amping up the difficulty from there. While this might intimidate beginner players and scratches the balance down just a little bit, the progression is easily suitable from that point, injecting branching paths and more difficult environments, monsters and waves as players move on. Again, if you’re interested in this title, though, you’re probably somewhat accustomed to the genre and a lot of it should be second nature.

With the combination of genres, Creature Defense opens up its appeal even more as it is definite sell to tower defense fans and a great suggestion to management buffs that like to tinker with customizable decks. The title is also positioned at a comfortable price of $8 on the Playstation Network that is easily worth the price of admission and will give players on the go hours of entertainment. It’s hard to put down once you get sucked in and there are a lot of extra goods to be seen, including a fan service nod to Sony’s Eye of Judgment series as the game contains three creature cards pulled from the PS3 series.

The Scores
Story/Modes: GOOD
Graphics: GOOD
Control/Gameplay: CLASSIC
Replayability: INCREDIBLE
Balance: GOOD
Originality: ABOVE AVERAGE
Addictiveness: GREAT
Appeal Factor: GREAT
Miscellaneous: VERY GOOD
Final Rating: VERY GOOD GAME

Short Attention Span Summary

While the mixture of genres found in Creature Defense might not revolutionize tower defense games, it actually comes pretty close, and it becomes hard to put the game down once you get into it. Due to the nature affinities each creature has and the limitation of only being allowed five creatures at a time really piles on the strategy and challenge more than one might initially think. Creature Defense drops the ball on its presentation a little and the challenge and balance might not be too welcoming for those new to the genre, but the title doesn’t fail to provide hours of fun and it will do everything that matters to tower defense fans. The title is an easy recommendation for tower defense fans and the appeal should carry over to those that like to micromanage and when it comes to the PSP, Creature Defense is a great solution for those looking for this style of game on the Sony handheld.



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