It’s like tower defense, but…
When the original Anomaly launched, it was the poster child for the ‘reverse tower defense’ genre, games that put the player in charge of an invading army that must navigate a maze of hostile enemy towers. Anomaly wasn’t just about proceeding from A to B, either, the game was filled with secondary objectives that required the player to redirect their units mid-game via the tactical map. Most players will also recall the standout visuals. None of this has gone away in Anomaly Korea, and most of it has improved.
Anomaly Korea takes the original ‘reverse defense’ formula and adds variety to the secondary objectives. I enjoyed the tactical thought required by the game’s mission structure, such as saving certain targets before they are destroyed by an enemy, or avoiding artillery strikes while also manipulating enemy targeting to destroy their own units. There are a healthy mix of enemies, player units, and timed powerups to give the player the opportunity to solve each mission in their own way. However; Anomaly Korea does suffer from the syndrome that many tower defense and strategy games do, in that the absence of a significant enemy AI turns levels into puzzles. An enemy without mobility and some degree of random behavior or setup means that players can be sure there is an optimal solution to the encounters- an issue only highlighted by the “Art of War” challenge levels.
An issue with the first Anomaly was the way in which powerups were implemented. Korea has the same pitfall, and players can easily find themselves throwing down any and every powerup available to survive a difficult segment. Often, I found that adjusting either my movement strategy or unit setup could pull me through a challenge and reduce the amount of powerups needed. This lends to the puzzle-like feel of levels, and at times I felt that I had simply stumbled across a level’s solution. Movement is too rigid to allow the player to quickly retreat, so it is necessary to commit to your decisions. Fortunately the game’s checkpoint system makes up for the inability to escape some failures. Despite some shortcomings, Anomaly Korea does provide players with enough information to make it through many levels in a single go.
As mentioned before and evidenced in the screenshots, Anomaly Korea is a gorgeous game. Playing on a retina resolution iPad, I was wowed by just how good each level looked. Visual variety of units has always been a part of tower defense, and watching new enemy and player units lob increasingly effective munitions at each other is all the better with the game’s lush graphical display. One presentation element I could have done without is the overwrought Korean accent of your partner, I’ll take actual Korean with subtitles any day. The rest of the game is slick, smooth, and intuitive.
Anomaly Korea builds upon its predecessor. It isn’t just more of the same, but don’t come to Anomaly Korea expecting something entirely new. You can, however, expect a game equal in quality to the first release. It is easy to look upon sequels with a more critical eye, but the fact is that there is a decent tactical experience under the hood of AK, one that both fans of the original and newcomers alike should check out.
Anomaly Korea is available (on sale) for $2.99 as a Universal App.