148Apps Network Post
Developer: Chillingo
Price: FREE
Version: 1.02
App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★★½
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

Build defenses. Hold off the attacking hordes. Above all else, protect the base. This is a song and dance we’re all very familiar with. What makes Spice Invaders a worthwhile tango partner is the way it’s practically full-to-bursting with content. Extra towers, new upgrades, special passive abilities and even cosmetic items can be purchased with spice earned (or bought with real money) through repeated play. It’s a surprisingly compelling and rewarding system with one major drawback: the multiplayer.

Assuming we’re all knowledgeable of tower defense games, I’m going to cut right to the specific nuances. Players will do the deed throughout several varied levels/maps gaining experience for their pirate to unlock new towers, spending earned cash and points on said upgrades, unlocking new levels and eventually new game types. Each stage (and modes, once they’re unlocked) can be replayed as much as needed and there’s no shortage of incentive to do so.

Aside from the ever present desire to unlock more and more stuff, Spice Invaders has a bit more going for it. It looks great with lots of colorful imagery, plenty of visual upgrades to each tower and these adorably goofy little speech bubbles that pop-up from time to time to show what a given unit is thinking. I’m particularly fond of seeing a rarely-used turret saying something akin to “I feel useless…” It made me laugh. The overall interface is also pretty slick and easy to navigate, too.

The big issue I’ve had with Spice Invaders is the multiplayer, sadly. It seems like something that should be the driving force here, but as of right now it feels like a broken mess. Friend integration is both overly complicated and hit-or-miss (not a fan of Crystal, either). Actually playing with a specific person is nigh impossible to do because, for some reason, it fails to recognize friends who are online. We had to organize a meeting via computer chatting in order to get a game started. Once the game started, it was even more of a mess with players’ bases and turrets not marked very clearly and waves of enemies that start out way too tough. The first map was so small it was total chaos, and not in a good way. Larger maps are better, but some require a set number of players and if there aren’t enough than there won’t be a game. Oh, and it crashed on me in mid-match. That was fun.

I have every faith in Chillingo making the multiplayer into something that doesn’t induce rage, but right now I’d rather avoid it. Thankfully the singleplayer portion of Spice Invaders is more than enough to satisfy. Barring the occasional ad there’s hardly any way of knowing that this is a free-to-play game. I think that alone speaks volumes.

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