Robocalypse: Beaver Defense Review
Posted by Zach Kaplan
Robocalypse: Beaver Defense has all the red flags of a stinker: a "crude humour" warning right when you boot up, a cartoony theme possibly chosen to draw in unsuspecting youths and a genre in which it's easy to cut corners. You might want to think twice before passing this one up, however, as this dam's actually quite sturdy.
The genre is tower defence – in other words, you barricade yourself in your fortress and wait for the approaching onslaught. There's a building known as your base that every enemy will try to destroy, and if they succeed, you lose the match. You protect it by strategically placing drone turrets about the surrounding landscape while acquiring scraps from downed enemies with which to build and upgrade them. You'll do this throughout each attack, and depending on how quickly you clear out your opponents, a brief pause will take place before each new wave occurs. A few troops also stroll about the battlefield, helping to gun down enemies and repairing damaged equipment. Your artillery grows as you progress, and while most of these weapons vary only in strength, the second type to which you gain access can also act as an enemy demobiliser and temporarily transform foes into harmless kitchen appliances. This creates a bit of strategy and keeps things interesting as you plan your protectors' placement.
As you can upgrade these in one of two ways, usually choosing between strength and range, or spend your scraps on placing new robots, your mind will stay active throughout each enemy wave. Will you improve upon your current forces or place turret after cheap turret so that no enemy can enter the scene without being mercilessly shelled from every angle? After your base is safe, in which direction will you continue, as enemies will attack you from all sides? There are enough choices to keep every match unique and to keep things interesting, and you'll have to be on the alert from start to finish as enemy waves follow each other somewhat rapidly.
Another interesting factor is the inclusion of a hero robot who stands out among your defences. You'll unlock more of these as you progress, and each comes equipped with his own special attack that can vary from more forcefully and quickly firing bullets to placing a decoy base. Additionally, you can move him about the battlefield by clicking a spot to which to guide him. This feature greatly increases the game's replay value; if you lose, you can go back with an alternate hero robot and thus an entirely new strategy.
The game is not without its downside, however. Things can get quite confusing when foes and bots crowd the battlefield, so much so that it's sometimes easy to lose track of your hero. It can also be quite frustrating when you forget that you've selected him and accidentally click the wrong spot, not realising that you've sent him far away from the action until he emerges from the disarray. Moving him can be quite a chore: you have to find him, click his icon, click where you want him to go, make sure he's headed there, press B, make sure that he's deselected before you click anywhere else... this method of control certainly isn't ideal and can end up being pretty frustrating.
The presentation is also a mixed bag at best. During play it's no problem: a wild, cartoony soundtrack scoring some overall pleasing visuals that look about as good as a well-done Super Nintendo game. Fun little animations and speech bubbles also keep the action amusing, but on the other hand, the cutscenes in story mode are just dreadful. They begin with a decent Flash animation intro, its only major flaw being the use of speech bubbles rather than voice recordings, and quickly plummet to barely animated scenes bracketing each stage. Each of these ends in an overly long fadeout, suggesting that what you're watching is a poorly constructed prototype that the developers didn't have time to replace.
The characters are relatively unappealing, the two main heroes being a pointlessly buxom scientist and a constantly smirking, consistently miffed young intellectual with a lab coat and a penchant for investigating environmentally foul factories. However, the story is occasionally pretty funny and rarely boring, the only tedium drawing from reading talk bubble after talk bubble. It revolves around a robot manufacturer hoisted by its own toxic petard, its waste mutating a nearby beaver into an evil mastermind with a pig's tail. He takes control of the mechanical militia to get revenge on mankind for replacing his posterior pond-patter with its porky equivalent, with which he'll never be able to attract a mate. The environmentally conscious scientist and his companions take control of what robots that they can and hole up for the fight, trying to outsmart the eager evildoer as they progress from one place to the next. It's only a loose frame for generic tower defence, but it's refreshing that the game has its own personality. It won't have you rolling on the ground, but it can be pretty amusing and never gets obnoxious. A game with a sense of humour can be a terrible thing if it doesn't come off correctly, and thankfully this one's comedic side is always a positive.
There are two modes, Story and Survival. The former has a very fair difficulty curve and never seems easier or harder than it ought to be. Each stage, of which there are ten toal, has a set number of increasingly difficult enemy waves through which to fight. The latter lets you play the first five of the stages unlocked in Story, all of which, by the way, are unique enough to stand apart, without stopping after a set number of waves. While you won't beat a level and progress to the next here, it can be a lot more satisfying as you won't have constructed your elaborate fortress only to have it left behind for the next level. Four players can save their own individual profiles, and the game displays a few stats for each including game percentage completed and number of enemies destroyed.
This is a fun tower defence game with enough unique features and strategic elements to keep it interesting and a sense of humour to set it apart from its competitors. While it suffers presentation-wise, don't let that throw you off as for those who enjoy the genre, this one's a must-have.