Bland aliens are attacking so why not let our blandest hero handle it: Commando Jack.
Commando Jack is a tower defense game with a bit of a twist. I will get into the twist later, as it is still a tower defense game at its core. There are five maps available in the game, and the layout changes in accordance to the four levels of difficulty. On the easy setting the level is clean, and you are free to plan as you please. On harder difficulty settings obstacles such as cars, and scattered debris demand new strategies from you. Commando Jack is an open path TD in the vein of Fieldrunners where you can place your towers however you like to. It is important to make sure that you get good views of the targets for the FPS sections so it demands some new ways of thinking.
The turrets available are quite ordinary for the genre with a machine gun, a laser, a slow gloop tower, a sandbag that just blocks and a remote controlled explosive. All turrets can be upgraded in the map menu before entering the fray, and then you can upgrade them in the action part as well. There is no numbered system of keeping track of damage, or if it is better to upgrade one tower or build another one. Overall the game is lacking in information that is needed to really lay out some proper strategies. When upgrading a tower the range increases, as shown by the outline of range. Other than that it is hard to get any information. Only having five different turrets, and in reality only three proper ones at that limits the game significantly. It feels barren, and not having the same content that Fieldrunners gave years ago stupefies me.
The FPS aspect of Commando Jack is really only needed for bosses, or to clean up when the towers miss a couple of quick enemies. Calling it FPS is really stretching it, as there is no movement involved. Jack sits in his turret firing unlimited rounds at the oncoming waves. On easier difficulty setting there tends to be less debris, and obstacles making the turret more effective due to having more time with open targets. Firing the turret at a valid target in range gives a red outline to the crosshairs, and a rapidly dropping health bar. The animation of gunfire is really poor with the same small muzzle flash repeating. The longer you hold the trigger the more the aim will veer off. By just releasing the trigger, and then get at it again you can more or less fire continuously for as long as you need. There is no overheat mechanics that would have given the game a sense of urgency. Zooming in when using the turret gives more range, but also a close up of the bland graphics.
When in turret mode the left side of the screen controls aim, and the right fires. You can also upgrade your turret into different kinds such as flamethrower, and missiles. This is done using the same currency as used to buy, and upgrade towers. Often it is better to have a fully upgraded turret for the final wave boss, and to hold off flying enemies.
There are only five maps available in Commando Jack, and albeit those are quite varied it soon dawns on me that it is a meager offering. I like how the levels are inspired by where in the world the scene is. Even though it might be cliché having yellow cabs in New York, and Pyramids in Egypt it gives the levels personality.
Personality is something that both the main character Jack, and his alien enemies lack. Jack just look like any old commando, and I did not find him the least memorable. A couple of cool one-liners would have gone a long way. The enemies lack of variety, and personality is even worse. There are only five different enemies, and a couple of bosses. Without any clue to what enemy is weak to what turret it also limits how I respond to these bland aliens.
There is a story mode introduced by a rather nifty flick showing how the aliens despise Jack. Other than that you only play the five levels in succession. Between levels you can upgrade your arsenal. To beat the highest levels of difficulty you might have to resort to IAP to get the best possible chance. I had trouble on the first level on the hard setting with only the base turrets. I would not stand a chance on the hardest setting.
Commando Jack looks made in the same form, as a lot of Chillingo published games. Lock ‘n’ Load, Cowboy Guns and Vampire Rush all seem to share the same basic engine, and to some extent assets. It looks much better on the small iPhone screen than on the iPad. I don’t think it is terrible, but something about the presentation feels copied, and pasted instead of carefully crafted. The music, and sound effects there but not really impress me. I would have liked more thump when blasting away with the turret.
Commando Jack is a cheap alternative in the tower defense jungle, but to conquer all you either have to grind like crazy or resort to IAP. I miss information about turrets, enemies and bosses making it hard to really strategize. As tower defense games go Commando Jack will give you a couple of hours worth, but those are definitely not the best hours of the genre.
Commando Jack $0.99 Universal for iPad/iPhone/iPod
Seller: Chillingo Ltd.