Fieldrunners is the newest kid on the block in the ever-expanding “tower defense” genre on the App Store. Each of these games has its own gameplay balance and aesthetic to distinguish it from its cousins; Fieldrunners is one of the most stylish renditions that you will find on the iPhone or any other platform. Its feature set is basic, but balanced enough to provide hours of entertainment.
As in other tower defense games, your objective in Fieldrunners is to place different kinds of ‘towers’ in patterns designed to destroy a wave of enemies before they can cross from one side of the screen to the other. You have four towers at your disposal–a “Gatling” tower, a “Goo” tower, a “Missile” tower and a “Tesla” tower. The gun tower is your inexpensive workhorse,and the missile is your long range killer. The slime tower slows down enemies and the electricity tower delivers a very powerful shock at close range. Each tower can be upgraded twice. This rudimentary selection is kind of disappointing, but at least each tower type satisfies a specific need.
Meanwhile, the enemies come in a few different flavors, but they’re really only distinguished by their speed, toughness and ability to fly. There’s no rock-paper-scissors dynamic that forces you to match specific towers to specific enemy types. We’re not saying that the game isn’t challenging, though: the easiest difficulty level in Fieldrunners is quick to master, but the hardest requires serious planning. A single game can last as long as an hour; fortunately, the game remembers exactly where you were when you reboot it after quitting or closing. Enthusiasts can play for higher scores, but you can’t tweak settings such as board shape, or select an alternate game mode. Fieldrunners’ touch controls work well: you simply drag towers onto the board to place them, and touch to upgrade or demolish them. It’s easy to zoom in and out and pan around to survey the entire field, or to focus on a single point of interest.
The real draw in Fieldrunners is its graphics, which ooze personality and style. The game’s enemies and towers are based on military and architectural tropes from the first half of the twentieth century–mainly the two World Wars, with a little Art Deco thrown in. These detailed, hand-drawn caricatures have real comic appeal. Plus, the animation remains smooth and consistent, even when the screen fills up with baddies. In comparison with the game’s awesome graphics, the complete lack of sound is a major letdown.
Overall, Fieldrunners is a beautiful and satisfying game. It is balanced enough to challenge without frustrating, and although it lacks some features found in other tower defense games, the gameplay is well-executed and has no glaring holes. You shouldn’t expect the game to hold your attention for weeks on end, but you will certainly get your $4.99 worth. A bit more depth and the inclusion of sound would really make the game into a Must Have.