Developer: THQ Wireless
Price: $2.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0.0

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

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Star Wars: Battle for Hoth (BfH) has been on my radar for quite some time, and, being a huge tower defense fan, I was hoping that it would be “game of the year” quality. The possibilities for a Star Wars tower defense game were endless in my head. I was thinking of AT-AT walkers as mini-bosses, plenty of character cameos, Wampa attacks, and some grand fights with maps full of troops.

What I ended up getting was a muddy looking tower defense game that doesn’t have a ton of depth after the first hour or so of play. I suppose that the end result was much more like the movie version of the battle for Hoth… slightly ugly (by today’s standards) and short.

The first error, in my opinion, is that the game really doesn’t use the original Star Wars story at all. Before a few levels there are some cut scenes from the movie, but they really don’t paint the picture of what happened. There is no Imperial droid landing, no Luke being rescued, and no build-up to the attacks. THQ really missed some easy opportunities for success, such as a good level to show the power of the AT-AT walkers. I realize that the game is just a game, but there is no reason that ground troops with turrets should be able to take on the most menacing enemy in the movie’s battle. Make a level that shows how strong they are, and then have Luke, in a cameo, show you that the Snowspeeders can kill them with tow lines. I really don’t want to come across as an angry Star Wars nerd, but there are some golden opportunities for a story here.

Past the story, and the bizarre balance of unit power that I’ll get into later, is a pretty decent game. It’s not really a tower defense game though, because it has many RTS elements mixed in, most notably unit death. Instead of just building an invincible fortress, you must use a combination of trenches, units, and buildings to guide the enemy along. Each unit, including gun towers and power plants, can level up four times, but have limited hit points, and the enemies are fairly smart about what they target. They tend to go after shield generators first, then the power plants that power the big guns, then whatever is hurting them the most.

As I said before, the unit defense hierarchy is a bit messed up. The second troop type that you get in the game, the heavy weapon soldier, seems to be stronger than the tower laser cannon, which shoots so slow and gets destroyed so fast that it’s not even worth building. Various inconsistencies with troop strength, most notably the weakness of the AT-AT walkers and some of the larger guns, makes the game seem poorly thought out at times.

By about level 8, your bases will all look fairly similar, with a line or two of heavy gunners in trenches defending some clusters of X-Wing (why are there X-Wings?) and Snowspeeder beacons, with an Ion cannon and a shield sitting somewhere pretty. Getting the placement just right is absolutely crucial, but once you understand the game mechanics, everything will be easy.

The graphics, probably the worst part of the game, just aren’t very pretty at all. The fonts are fairly ugly, the units look aged (although they do change a bit with each upgrade), the animations are a bit sloppy, and the firefights end up looking pretty pathetic. Half of the time, there is really no telling who the enemies are firing at, causing all sorts of confusion when trying to prepare to rebuild quickly.

Another game oddity is the way that you get money to build things. Instead of getting money per kill automatically, one or two units in each wave will drop money that you have to pick up before it goes away. The issues becomes bad when you are building or upgrading a unit, because the game automatically zooms you in. When you are zoomed in, you can’t see the whole board, so there are many times that your hard earned money will just vanish.

Past all the bad, the game does have a decent number of levels, and is still in the Star Wars universe. For as much as I complain, I’ll still play it all the way through a few times to get all the achievements, but I’ll whine and kick like a baby the whole time. If you are a fan of Star Wars, pick the game up because you have to, but as a non-fan, there are other tower defense games that are better in just about every way.

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