Tower defence games haven't exactly been a popular genre for long, but they're already starting to become boring to most. After all, fending off endless waves of enemies by strategically placing turrets is fun the first time, but any more than that and it might start to get annoying quite quickly. With Starship Patrol, has Q Games successfully managed to make the genre fun again?
Starship Patrol doesn't stray too far from the basic formula. Enemies attempt to make their way through your terrain (in this case, a fleet of starships), and you've got to place a variety of guns along the way to take them down. Each weapon costs some energy, of which you gain more by defeating enemies, so you should always look carefully at which enemies are coming next in order to see if you need to buy anything specific. If enemies go far enough without being destroyed, they will deal some damage to your ships, and if it's all gone, you lose.
Luckily, there's plenty of power-ups to help you out. Periodically, one will come floating down — among them you'll find ones that repair ship damage and a variety of stat boosters that can be dragged to any weapon in order to enhance an attribute, such as recharging speed or power.
You'll start off with very basic turrets — a precision laser that does minimal damage but is the only starting weapon that can hit cloaked enemies, a missile launcher and a chaingun. As you go through the game you'll get more and more to use, and carefully managing placement becomes more difficult. They're actually not the only weapons at your disposal, however — if the going gets too tough, you can send out an S.O.S. call, which allows you to use a special item gained after beating a level. You can call in support from a bounty hunter, give yourself extra energy to purchase things with, or simply repair damage.
But be warned, there is a minor penalty attached to this! Just like in Reflect Missile, you are awarded a medal if you perform exceptionally well in a stage — in this case, finishing it without using an S.O.S. call and without letting a single enemy escape.
The game has about 30 stages, which will take you a while to finish. It's possible that there might be more after them, but some of the later levels are quite challenging, and as such we haven't managed to finish them yet! However, it could also just be because we want a medal on every stage and thus spend numerous attempts trying to get one.
Like with their previous DSiWare titles, Q Games has given the game a very minimalistic style; everything looks like it takes place on paper used for mathematics. All enemy designs are simple and only consist of one colour, while your turrets also look very simple yet clearly different, with colours denoting the upgrade they're using. The music is a bit low-key and won't really impress, but it's not bad.
Q Games has increased their streak to three — Starship Patrol is yet another great addition to the DSiWare library and a game you should definitely consider picking up if you have the slightest bit of interest in the tower defence genre. Like Reflect Missile before it, the art style works greatly in its favour, giving a very simple yet uniquely charming look, which somehow manages to make the game more interesting. Although there's only one mode to speak of, the ability to earn medals and possibly unlock more or to simply earn bragging rights will keep you coming back.