Developer: MISTWALKER CORPORATION
Price: $0.99
Version: 1.1
App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★☆☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★☆☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

I have to give Mistwalker credit, the concept behind Blade Guardian is definitely an interesting one. Take tower defense and add super powerful units capable of obliterating enemy spawn points? Brilliant! At least that’s what I thought. Then I played it and found out it was more boring than brilliant.

Blade Guardian takes place over several stages set on floating chunks of land in different configurations. There are enemy nests and a base. The player’s job is to keep the enemies, in this case large space bugs, from reaching the base by constructing obstacles and ordinance-flinging towers along their path. Unlike many path-building tower defense games there are walls that can be constructed for very little cost, as opposed to being forced to exclusively use precious towers for such a task. Along with all the wall and tower building, sometimes pods will float in from the sides of the screen. If one of these pods is destroyed it will release a Blade (some sort of large biomechanical thing with very large knives for arms), which will then tear through the enemy ranks in an attempt to reach their nest and Kill It With Fire.

There’s a surprising amount of give-and-take in Blade Guardian. Walls might be inexpensive but they still add up, and if a Blade drops on them they get smashed (towers will remain, though) and must be rebuilt. Similarly, the act of acquiring a Blade can be difficult. Pods can be damaged by towers but they’ll always give enemies priority, while players can tap directly on pods in order to damage them but each tap costs precious resources. It’s a trade-off, like everything else in this game, and it forces players to really weigh their options. Especially because performance in one level will determine various bonuses (starting resources, base health, etc) given at the start of the next.

It’s a shame, then, that all that consideration and clever balancing didn’t go into the rest of the game. The interface is clunky and unhelpful. There are only a handful of towers with no adequate description of what they do or how an upgrade will improve them. Enemies swarm frequently but always seem to provide a ridiculously small amount of resources. When it all comes together it creates a game that’s much more frustrating than fun to play.

I can overlook the completely unhelpful tutorial (Don’t let the monsters reach your base!) and I can make peace with only having a few towers at my disposal, but that won’t make up for Blade Guardian’s other shortcomings. Heck, if Mistwalker simply adjusted the amount of resources given for taking down enemies (giant boss-like bugs grant 2. Yes, 2) it could make a huge difference. As-is, though, it pales in comparison to other examples within the genre. Even with the inclusion of Blades.

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