Bonus Rounds are short, 5-minute musings on quirky titles that either end up hidden down the back of the sofa, or lost among the endless pile of Steam games and Bundles you own, but have never got around to playing. These could be reviews of PC, iOS or console games, Early Access titles, games made as part of a Game Jam, and so on. They’ll predominantly be games made by indie developers, and usually (but not always) published on a Sunday.
I’m a self-confessed tower defence addict. I don’t know what it is about them, but the best ones have that elusive quality – a frantic, strategic, yet ultimately relaxing tempo that can take hold of me for hours at a time. The problem is that there are so many tower defence games and they vary in quality so dramatically, it really is difficult to find a half-decent one. Over the past few years there’s been the good (Savage Moon, Revenge of the Titans, Defence Grid 2), the bad (Defenders of Ardania, Oil Rush) and the downright ugly (Sol-Survivor). Fortunately for us all, Space Run can definitely be counted as one of the good ones and is a masterful take on the tower defence genre, crammed full of original ideas.
Space Run’s genius concept is what makes it not just feel fresh, but also makes it a lot of fun. Instead of a standard tower defence map or level, each mission sees you in control of a spaceship that consists of hexagonal tiles that vary in shape and number. On each of these tiles you must first place your cargo (which must be protected), then you must start building defensive structures to defend your ship from aliens – who can attack from every edge of the screen. Add to this a timer mechanic that gives you extra rewards for building vulnerable thrusters instead of guns in order to deliver cargo as fast as you can, and you have the recipe for an incredibly fast-paced and exciting tower defence hybrid.
Presentation is minimalist and functional, with personality and humor coming from comic-strip-style conversations between missions which introduce zany characters whilst progressing the storyline. Graphics are detailed, crisp and clean; when enemy ships start flying in and lasers, guns and rockets are firing in all directions, it can actually look pretty impressive. Sound effects are basic but meaty and although character quips do occur far too frequently, they can thankfully be turned off.
One of Space Run’s strongest aspects is its decent level of difficulty and a genuine sense of progression the more you play. Far too many tower defence games offer little challenge, becoming too easy once you’ve found that perfect tower combo, creating almost a passive experience whilst you fast forward time and let the towers do all the work. Space Run never affords you that luxury, as you’ll constantly be tweaking the direction of your turrets or buffering them with boosts; you’re constantly reacting to where the next wave of aliens will appear next. It’s a tough game, but it’s always fair; and when you do unlock those larger rockets, shields and guns you feel like you’ve truly earned them.
Space Run is packed with content and variety. In terms of structures, there’s a clever mix of guns, lasers, rockets, generators, thrusters, alongside some other sci-fi surprises – pretty much everything you’d expect to find on a space ship hurtling through space. There are 30 missions that vary from transporting rich sightseers needing a window view (leaving them vulnerable to attack) to hauling power-sucking crystals across the galaxy (draining guns and shields placed next to them). It sometimes feels as much of a jigsaw puzzle as it does tower defence, in a good way. Passtech really does deserve praise for their attention to detail and for producing something so polished and well thought-out.
In an overcrowded genre filled with cheap, lazy, often uninspiring titles, Space Run is one of those rare and refreshing gems that make you fall in love with tower defence all over again. I’m already 20+ hours in and I still want to go back for more, just to get those last few gold stars – a testament to how good this game is. Add to this the fact that it can be picked up for peanuts, and it really is a no-brainer.
Even if you’re not a fan of tower defence games, the sheer quality of Space Run coupled with the clever twist it makes to the genre should be enough to convert you.