Developer: NTT Resonant
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0.1

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★½☆☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★★
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

When an app touts that its predecessors have been played 50 million times, with the direct prequel being a Kongregate top 25 mainstay, it’s safe to say that the app deserves a look. For fans of the Protector Series, the fifth game, titled “The Planes,” is only going to be released on the iPhone, shunning its Flash gaming roots. Apparently ZigZaGame is moving from the free flash model to the moneymaking App Store. I can respect that.

Unlike Kongregate though, the App Store is a whole different animal. People demand a level of polish that they may otherwise not care about in a flash game. Maybe it’s because people are paying for these iOS games, or maybe people just expect a lot due to the retina display; whatever the reason, ZigZaGame had their work cut out.

Protector: The Planes is a fixed path tower defense game that requires a bit more thought than the average TD. The game is really based on an element system, which means that units don’t simply do X amount of damage. Instead, units in Protector adhere to their particular element, meaning that fire wizards do fire damage, ice wizards do ice damage, and so on.

To make things a bit more difficult, each enemy has its own strengths and weaknesses, meaning that wave 1 could be resistant to fire while wave 10 could be weak to it. Levels in the game tend to follow patterns, so you have to make sure you choose the right types of units to use before the level starts. Once you are in a level, you can’t sell any units, so you also need to have a base placement strategy down before you start.

To aid in your element selection, the game offers an extensive stat upgrade tree. As you beat each level, you are given a point that you can allocate to any number of things, from upgrades to certain types of units to unlocking special units. All of the points can be reallocated at any point, so it is up to you to use the stats to your advantage in each level.

As well thought out as the game is, though, the graphics are a mess. Each map, no matter what the setting is, is full of dark colors and the muddiest, jagged squares possible. The units are all stiff and dull, and their weapon blasts really aren’t that much better. Protector also breaks the one rule of a great tower defense game, and that is that none of the units change visually when they are upgraded. Something as simple as a dot on the back of the characters would be enough to make me happy.

If you can get past the graphics, you’ll find that Protector: The Planes is about as deep of a tower defense game as they come. There is just simply more to do, with a higher level of difficulty, than just about any other game out there. It’s really just a shame that the brains behind the operation couldn’t steal the art team from Fieldrunners or Sentinel.

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