In November, global games publisher and developer Merscom said that it was looking for more beyond the casual space and into the social scene. Not to long ago, the company gave us a first look at the alpha rendition of its new social Facebook title, The Crazies Tower Defense. Based on the upcoming movie, the app has been deemed, by the developer, ready as ever to be seen by public eye as Merscom has more 137,000 monthly active users, according to AppData.
In a nutshell, the film is about a toxin that gets into the water supply of a small Iowa town – when is it not a small Midwestern town? – that drives its victims insane before killing them. The few sane people remaining must band together to survive and that’s where the game comes in.
Already we see Merscom’s casual roots appear in this application with its “tower defense” title. As one of the older, and more common forms of casual games, it is a fun genre, but rarely original. Nonetheless, it looks like the developers are more than aware of such issues, as this defense app has a few key differences to make it feel a bit different than the sea of others.
Unlike the hundreds of other tower defense games, The Crazies does not give the user a set path that the enemies will follow. When they start the game, they are basically told, “This is your house. This is where bad guys come from. Enjoy.” Okay, yeah, there are tutorial prompts too, but you get the point. Regardless, between the player’s house and the alleyway where Crazies spawn from, there is nothing but a big open field to start out with (there are other, unlockable maps), and it’s up to the player to build a path – with bullets.
Starting with basic pistol wielding soldiers, users plant them down in little sandbagged bunkers to automatically shoot at passing enemies. With all tower defense games, this first “tower” has limited range, damage, and no area of effect (it can only hit one enemy at a time). Luckily, the game also grants new players with a slightly-better shotgun solider and some sandbag barricades (which are used to block off where enemies move) as well.
As Crazies die, cash – referred to as “Dollars” in this game – is automatically put in your wallet, with the occasional stack of money dropping on the playing field and needing to be picked up with a click. This is your in-game currency in the sense that it is used to purchase new soldiers and ammunition during battle.
Yes, you have to buy ammunition. This is one of the other interesting elements to The Crazies Tower Defense. The more towers you have, the more bullets you use, and if you run out…. Well, let’s say it won’t end well. It truly is a simple, but interesting feature though, as it adds a bit of chaos, urgency, and resource management to the game. Of course, if you need more Dollars to afford more, you can always buy a nest egg’s worth with the virtual currency, Gold.
Purchasing Gold is fairly standard, with offers, PayPal, etc, but what makes it worth buying is that you need it to buy new soldiers (snipers, mortars, etc.) at the weapon shops as well as upgrades for them. Thankfully, Gold is earned, slowly, through in-game means (killing Crazies), so a player is never forced to make a purchase in order to continue playing.
As a social game, yet another difference puts this app over most other tower defense titles. Beyond simple leaderboards and wall posts, the game has a handful of achievements for users to try and accomplish, as well as the ability to visit a friend’s map layouts, and even gifting. Nothing says “Be My Friend” like a sack of bullets, no?
Tower defense games are an enjoyable lot, so there isn’t a whole lot to complain about here other than minor usability issues. Honestly, the only true irritation was that the price of a soldier was not displayed upon a mouse-over. Instead, you had to click it and view its entire set of stats (in a different part of the screen) to see the cost; hardly intuitive when it is grayed out (because you don’t have enough money) or time effective when there’s about 9000 Crazies at the front door. On the other hand, the game did feel a bit easy, so perhaps the latter wasn’t that big of a deal after all.
Regardless, The Crazies Tower Defense does make a few nice changes to a pretty tired genre, and we’re interested to see how effective the game is at promoting the film.