This is a combined review of 3 exciting games, we will be reviewing Animal Legends, Anodyne Mobile & Anomaly Warzone Earth HD.

Animal Legends

At the start of the game, an evil vampire frog named Skulk has covered the land with thorny vines and zombified creatures. You control a team of legendary animal warriors– a rhino, a raccoon, and an owl– who can fight back against the evil creatures and reclaim their homeland. Each new character is unlocked slowly after a steady accumulation of coins and experience points.

Combat couldn’t be simpler. You pick a hero to send into battle, and select a mission from the available regions. Then, you just tap on an attack, and tap on a target. Your creatures have a limited amount of energy available for the fight, so if you run out, you’ll have to wait a while, or recharge by spending the game’s premium currency, red gems.

Every attack is accompanied by a delightful animation, so running out of energy becomes a constant frustration. We wished at times that Animal Legends was a paid game with more balanced combat, so that we didn’t have to spend in-game currency or put the game down if we wanted to continue. The penalties for waiting are very light, though– your characters can’t die, but if you run out of energy during a battle, they may have to heal up in the hospital afterwards.

To go with the enticing combat sequences are a Farmville-style city-building sim, and light RPG elements that include arming your character with new gear. You’ll earn bonuses for completing a set of armor, but the prizes you find in battle are randomized, so you’ll have to replay some areas multiple time. When you’ve saved up energy or a supply of red gems, Animal Legends moves at a nice pace, but otherwise you’ll have to play in starts and fits.

As your territory expands, your army grows, and your coffers bulge with coins, gems, and stars, Animal Legends starts to feel like a more well-rounded experience. But those early adventures are frustratingly short due to the limits of freemium, and the game will take several weeks of regular visits to reach its full potential.

Even though it’s a truncated experience, we should praise Animal Legends for what it does right. The graphics and animation are superb, and there’s potential for depth in the loot system and city-building aspects. There’s also a well-designed social component, where you can invite friends’ creatures to fight with you, earn money from them, and send them gems as a thank-you. Animal Legends is an addictive, colorful, and kid-friendly game, but only if you have the patience to play it sporadically over long stretches of time.

Anodyne Mobile

Imagine a Legend of Zelda game with a dungeon that you can only access if you push a hapless father into a whirlpool and then jump into the bloodied vortex. That’s Anodyne. Already a hit on Steam, Anodyne Mobile is an iOS adaptation of an indie adventure RPG that some fans suggest rivals the SNES’ hallowed A Link to the Past. It doesn’t come close—few games do—but there’s still a compelling and mysterious adventure to be had here, though slippery controls might lead you to check out of this world of dreams prematurely.

Anodyne’s story is difficult to explain, which is part of the game’s charm (or pretention, depending on your viewpoint). Young, a bespectacled adventurer, must travel through his subconscious and confront the beasts, terrors, labyrinths, and odd denizens within.  It’s not unusual to find yourself on a breezy overworld in one moment, then a blood-red underwater cavern in the next.

Whereas Link has his Master Sword, Young must make do with a broom. Luckily, the monsters in his mind seem to be susceptible to bristles. Young can execute a stabbing attack with his broom, and he can also collect and lay down dust clouds. Dust clouds are key to navigating the world of Anodyne. They help Young pass traps safely, and they can also be used as rafts. Your goal is to collect the cards scattered through the world, which let you progress deeper into Young’s dream.

Truthfully, Anodyne has much more in common with the original Legend of Zelda than it does with the 16-bit A Link to the Past. You’re thrust into Young’s world with no direction at all, and few hints are offered on how to pass the traps in the game’s dungeons. You can expect to do a great deal of aimless wandering, but it’s not unpleasant. That’s not to say all the puzzles you come up against are intuitive. How are you supposed to automatically know that dust can be used as a raft?

In fact, most of the puzzles and problems in Anodyne lack the layers present in the best Zelda games. You can expect to move dust clouds, dodge lasers, hit switches – the usual tasks. The game’s controls are a puzzle on their own, too. They lack the necessary precision to send you around pits and enemies instead of into them. It’s frustrating, though the option to move the digital d-pad and action buttons is pretty neat.

Though Anodyne has problems and lacks the polish of a Zelda title, it should also be commended for using the Zelda formula to tell its own (albeit weird) story. It’s certainly playable, and chances are excellent that you’ll enjoy your journey into Young’s mind. Even troubled dreams can be fun to wander though.

Anomaly Warzone Earth HD

Tower defense games are everywhere, so it’s nice to see a developer take this overdone genre and twist it into something creative and fresh. Anomaly Warzone Earth began life as a PC game, but makes the transition to the iPhone/ iPad beautifully. The game is essentially a tower defense game played from the opposite side, so perhaps we should re-term it a “tower offense” game.

The story is a bit muddled, but aliens have invaded and the military is out to get rid of them. Starting off on the war-torn streets of Bagdad, Anomaly offers 15 levels in its main campaign, fast-paced strategic action, and gritty, realistic settings. The goal of each mission is to essentially guide a small group of vehicles through a turret-strewn landscape.

To that end, the game allows an amazingly deep level of strategy. The biggest facet of the gameplay is the way that you can change your units’ route on the fly. While an initial route is chosen at the start of each mission, you can switch to the planning map at any time and make adjustments. Unit control is based entirely on junctions– you can only change the direction at intersections, but you can’t actually order them to stop.

This tactical control fits perfectly with the variety of turrets you’ll face. While many can track you in 360 degrees, the speed at which they turn is variable. So you can conceivably change direction and circle around slower turrets. Other turrets are massively powerful, but only fire in one direction, so getting behind them is imperative. Each map has specific targets that must be taken out, along with plenty of targets of opportunity and even resources to gather. This means you’ll have to balance out the ultimate map goal with the urge to destroy as much as possible.

Your units cover the basics of an average real-time strategy title. There are tanks, UPCs, walking missile launchers, shield generators, and more. Each unit costs money, and you can generally only pick a few at the start of a mission. As you move through a map, there are special resources units will automatically gather which bolster your funds. New units can be purchased on the fly, and current units can be upgraded to become more powerful.

Your units will automatically fire on the nearest enemy emplacement, but they’ll need help to survive these gauntlet runs. Anomaly offers players a variety of on-the-fly aids to select and place on the map. A smoke screen obscures the enemies’ targeting in a wide area. A decoy unit will attract the fire of any turrets in range, and the repair tool will refresh any unit that drives within its radius. There’s even a weapon of mass destruction that lays waste to anything nearby. Each power-up has a specific range and time limit, so proper placement is critical.

The one problem with the controls is how easy it is to accidentally use power-ups. Since the map is always scrolling to keep up with your units, it’s easy to highlight a power-up icon and then slide the screen to scroll the map. Unfortunately, when a power-up is selected, any taps on the screen activate the power-up in that spot. It’s a minor complaint, but something to watch out for.

Destroying a tower is usually rewarded with an additional power-up, and there’s seldom a dull moment. The mix of route-planning, power-up usage, and proper unit selection and upgrading compound to create an amazingly deep strategy game that feels original. Of course, the gorgeous visuals don’t hurt either. Anomaly Warzone Earth HD is certainly one of the best looking games we’ve seen on the iPad/ iPhone, with superbly realistic landscapes, terrific special effects and animations, and great-looking units.

Without a doubt, Anomaly Warzone Earth HD is a great game that breathes life into a tired and overdone genre. By switching sides in tower defense, developer 11-bit Studios has managed to create one of the most engaging and interesting strategy titles available on the iOS platform. Add the incredibly well-done presentation to the mix, and you have one of the best mobile games of the year.

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