Version Reviewed: 1.7.5
Device Reviewed On: iPad Air
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
Do you need help with your Offense? How about your Defense? Then check out our Bot Squad player's guide!
Just when you think you're sick of a genre, a game comes along that changes everything while still reminding you what you loved about it in the first place. Despite some aggravatingly artificial freemium restrictions, The Bot Squad: Puzzle Battles miraculously manages to do something new and entertaining with tower defense.
The Bot Squad takes place in a vast robotic city separated into a series of puzzle grids. The robots competing for energy have a round and cartoony quality, almost like characters in the upcoming Big Hero 6, along with dazzling glowing lights like another Disney favorite, TRON. It’s a kid’s game for sure, but the friendly helpers with frequent tips are actually quite appreciated given the surprising scope of the gameplay.
With nearly 200 levels, The Bot Squad would surely become monotonous if it were just another tower defense game. Fortunately, its strength lies in the staggering variety that constantly keeps the game feeling fresh. Levels come in two broad flavors: Defense and Offense. Defense levels play more like traditional tower defense as players place various traps to keep enemies from reaching the goal. There are still lots of inventive strategies to explore though, like trapping foes between blocker bots so towers can pummel them. However, the Offense mode flips the script by having players micromanage drones to evade opponents’ traps. It plays like a simplified real-time strategy game, the genre tower defense is derived from, and induces much of that same tension. Between Defense’s methodical calculations and Offense’s tactical aggression, the balance makes sure there’s something for everyone. And within that framework the game introduces plenty of new challenges, units, and abilities to uncover.
However, the high level of creativity on display makes it that much more disappointing when the game is hamstrung by freemium elements. Players are always on the verge of losing the batteries necessary for play, which puts way too much pressure on them to avoid experimentation and not screw up. They can reclaim some energy by playing the daily minigame, but that barely helps. Meanwhile the more useful power-ups, like an enemy-freezing EMP blast, drain the real-money currency. But what really hurts the core experience is when players are basically required to upgrade their bots to win. The best levels are designed like puzzles - smart planning beats brute force - but this system makes it unclear whether or not players can even finish a stage without stronger units. And they’ll waste precious batteries trying to find out.
These flaws only stand out so much because the rest of the game is so great. The Bot Squad: Puzzle Battles isn’t just one new riff on tower defense, it’s a whole clever collection of them.