It’s not often that I get to play as the bad guy in my games. Normally I’m the hero saving the day/the world/the galaxy, but X-Morph Defense is a little different in that respect, but that’s not its only difference.
While taking out humans in my fancy little alien space ship is all good fun, the real story here is that X-Morph Defense blends two genres together in a fashion that shouldn’t work, but by the power of Grayskull, it does!
X-Morph Defense is a twin-stick shooter and a tower-defence game, all rolled into one easy to play package. I’ll be honest and say that I wasn’t exactly intrigued by the premise when review duties for this one fell to me, but after a few minutes dashing around and blowing up human tanks and helicopters, I was interested. Then the game threw its tower-defense mechanics into the mix and I was hooked. Literally, hooked. Between working, keeping my child alive, and working some more, I’ve not had nearly as much time to play as I wish I had. Honestly, I’d go to work and contemplate whether downloading Steam onto my work PC and getting a second copy to play in my office was worth the potential bollocking from HR… (I didn’t. I pussied out.)
So, my work ethic aside, what’s it all about? Basically, you’re playing as part of the alien race intent on invading Earth, destroying its cities, killing its people, and taking over the world. Standard alien invasion behaviour, then, and the story is about as generic as you could imagine. However, I can’t really fault the game’s story when the gameplay is the star of the show; the story is there to justify what you’re doing, but it’s better to have some sort of narrative than not, even if it’s a bit naff.
After the in-depth tutorial, you’re let loose on the game’s campaign. It should be noted that there aren’t any alternate modes with X-Morph Defense, and once you’ve done the single-player your options are to either play it again, or go at it with a mate in co-op. It’s a shame there isn’t a horde mode of sorts or a survival mode. That being said, what is on offer is damn good, if I may say so.
Blending twin-stick shooting with tower-defense mechanics seems like an odd choice, but after having done my time with the game, I’ve come out a total believer. It works. Instead of waiting around for your towers to kick in and start doing some work, you can nip around the map and pick off some enemies. Rather than relying on your own skill, you can sit back and assess the situation while the towers do their job. And when all hell breaks loose and those pesky humans dare to try to fight for their survival, you can jump into the fray knowing that your towers will be helping as you fire volleys of death fire onto those scumbag sacks of meat.
On one hand, the twin-stick shooting feels great. It’s easy enough to control and there’s plenty of fire-power to play around with. Plus, you actually need to use your ship to place towers. To do this, you need to enter ‘Ghost’ mode where you’ll get a new pop-out menu that you use to place towers around the game’s map, and you can place them in such a way that they connect and form a laser barrier. This is actually a key part of the game that turns it into something of a puzzle. See, for each level you need to defend your base which is under attack from the soldiers of Earth. To make your life a little easier, you can block off routes by strategically placing towers to form lasers. You can’t block all roads, though, because then you’d beat the game too easily. In real life, the aliens would happily block every route to the base, but because this is a video game, their logic is a little different. Just don’t think about it too much and you’ll be fine.
It’s this extra puzzle element that will make-or-break your efforts. It’s key to your survival, basically, so you’d do well to remember it. You can thank me for that advice at anytime.
One complaint I do have is that the difficulty ramps up quite quickly. Perhaps I’m just not all that good at the game (I did manage to beat the campaign, for what that’s worth) but I found it really hard after just a couple of levels. Maybe a more keen twin-stick shooter fan would fare better than I did; I’ve never been massively into them, but I can get by when the occasion calls for it.
As I say, the story isn’t much to shout about, but the actual gameplay is engaging enough that it’s easy to lose an hour or two without realising. The presentation helps, too, as an ugly game isn’t going to keep your eyes on the screen, is it? X-Morph Defense looks the part on PS4, with levels being crystal clear enough that you’ll never really lose track of what’s going on. That is, until you get absolutely swarmed because you didn’t do as I frigging said with the route blocking!
Graphically, it’s a decent effort and I can’t say anything against it. With different locations around the world, each stage offers up a fresh map to kill humans on. It looks great in motion and just works really well. Top job, then. On the other hand, the audio is a pain in the arse. The music is pretty much spot-on and does it job – fair play, then – but the voice acting is just downright bollocks. It’s nice to see the effort was put in, but having your alien boss shout the same lines over and over and over and over again is enough to get me swearing at the telly with my own replies that aren’t really suitable to published. You know, just in case my dear old mother reads this review… (She won’t.)
X-Morph Defense is a strange one: it doesn't deserve to be as good as it is, and it's very good! Fans of twin-stick shooters will be happy, while tower-defense nuts will also be happy. You take on Earth, you kill the good guys, and you can even do it with a mate in co-op mode. There's a decent campaign, though that's about it. In all, it's a shame there aren't more modes and that the voice acting can be irritating, but if they're my biggest complaints then I say it's a job well done to the developers.
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